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by Shane Stokes
January 18, 2018
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He retired in 2016 but Grand Tour and Ardennes Classic specialist Joaquim Rodriguez hasn’t fully got the racing bug out of his system. The Spaniard will join up with compatriot and former mountainbike world champion José Antonio Hermida in the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic, which takes place in March.
The news was announced by the Bahrain-Merida team on Tuesday. Rodriguez works with the squad as an advisor, while both are brand ambassadors for Merida.
“Their 2017 campaign was an impressive launch year for the team,” said Merida in a statement. “Despite José and Joaquim being close friends and regular training buddies it took them a long time to enter their first ‘pairs’ event together and their 2017 attempt at one of the biggest and most competitive events in the world was impressive, to say the least.
“After a few perfectly ridden stages where they managed to get into the top ten, the team finished the 2017 event in an astonishing 18th position over all. This is hugely impressive in particular as Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodríguez only started mountain biking a couple of months prior to the 2017 event and as the start list of the 2017 Cape Epic was once again a ‘who is who’ of the international UCI World Cup scene.”
Hermida said they are setting their sights higher this time around. “We are taking part in the Elite category, so our ‘target’ will be to stay with the top riders. 2017 was an amazing Cape Epic for us but due to being ‘one year wiser’ we should be fighting for top ten positions and we have clear intentions to reduce the time gaps to the podium even further. Our tactics will be as always ‘full gas’”.
See below for a video of the 2018 route.