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Although he hung up his wheels after the Olympic road race in Rio, Joaquim Rodriguez has had a change of heart and will compete in four more races this season before finally saying goodbye.
The Katusha rider was seventh in this year’s Tour de France and then went on to net fourth in the Clásica San Sebastián and fifth in the Olympic road race. That was his intended end point, with the Spanish rider passing up the chance to ride one more Vuelta a España.
However on Wednesday it emerged that he will do an about turn and compete in several more events before finally, and permanently, walking away.
Purito Rodríguez was today at the start and confirmed he will ride Milan Turin, Piamonte, Lombardia and Abu Dhabi before retiring #LV2016
— Laura Meseguer (@Laura_Meseguer) September 7, 2016
CyclingTips understands that while Rodriguez had planned to stop, Katusha’s management requested that he continue until the end of his contract.
Team spokesman Philippe Maertens confirmed that he will go on.
“Yes, it is correct,” he told CyclingTips. “He will do those races. We are happy he is going to do that because the team spoke with him yesterday and we are convinced that maybe not doing the Vuelta will be good for him.”
Over the course of a 16 year professional career Rodriguez earned the reputation as one of the best uphill riders in the sport. His climbing ability and explosiveness have garnered him victory in La Flèche Wallonne and two editions of Il Lombardia, the national road championships, stage races such as the Volta a Catalunya and stage victories in all three Grand Tours.
In addition to nine stage wins in the Vuelta a España, he was also second overall last year.
He announced his intention to retire during this year’s Tour de France, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Although he hasn’t competed since Rio, Maertens believes there is a chance that the 37 year old will be in a position to fight for more wins.
“He doesn’t need much training to be at a high level again. Maybe in the end it will be a very good decision to do those races,” he said. “We hope he surprises us all.”
Rodriguez’s change in heart is unexpected. Speaking to AFP on Wednesday, he confirmed that Rio had been his planned end point.
“The decision that I took was to stop cycling after the Olympic Games, but my contract with the Katusha team runs until December 31.
“If the team obliges me to ride the races that remain on the calendar, I haven’t any other choice but to get back on my bike and participate, whether that pleases me or not.”
Asked if Rodriguez might be seen in the peloton next year, Maertens confirmed that the next few weeks would be his final ones as a pro rider.
“I am 100 percent sure that it will be the very, very end.”