Doing an about-turn on an earlier decision to retire, Joaquim Rodriguez has announced that he will prolong his career for one more year and compete with the new Bahrain Merida team.
The former world number one indicated he was finished with cycling after the Olympic road race in Rio. In September he said that he would return to competition due to an instruction from the Katusha team that he needed to finish out the season.
After that rumours surfaced that Bahrain Merida was chasing him, and on Thursday this pursuit reached its conclusion.
“My decision to leave the competition has always been firm, but Bahrain Merida proposed a very interesting project to me and assured me that I will feel so comfortable and motivated with them that I have decided to put a race number on my back for one more year,” he said in a team statement.
“That’s also the reason they have offered me to be part of their important team roster for 2017 and the exciting opportunity to work within the technical staff for 2018 and 2019. So I have the possibility to return to the races, otherwise I would never have had this exciting opportunity.”
Rodriguez realises that this shift in career post-cycling will take time to adopt to, but said that the team is fine with that.
“This role is new to me, but the only thing they asked me to do is what I know best: enjoy cycling as usual and bring all my experience and knowledge learned throughout my career as a rider,” he said. “I think that such possibility is a dream of any rider so the Bahrain Merida Team have offered me just what I was looking for.”
Rodriguez has competed as a pro for 16 years. In that time he has 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.
The team’s General Manager Brent Copeland said the team were proud to make the announcement. “Joaquim is one of the most important, expert and famous riders in the world. He will bring even more expertise to our already very well established team.”
The squad previously confirmed the signatures of 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, Giovanni Visconti, Ion Izagirre, Enrico Gasparotto, Heinrich Haussler, Javier Moreno, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Ramunas Navardauskas and others.
Copeland said that Rodriguez will further boost that lineup, and also help others to get the best out of themselves.
“Having such a classy rider on the team not only brings security and confidence to team Bahrain Merida but also expert advice and mentorship to the younger riders and the rest of the team, which we feel is very important in modern days of cycling.”
He described Rodriguez’ knowledge as an asset which is difficult to find. “Not only is he one of the best bike riders cycling has ever seen but he is also one of the greatest personalities. We are sure that his always-optimistic attitude will be transmitted to the younger riders in the team which is something we take very seriously at Bahrain Merida.”