Spanish cyclist Rodriguez eyes Tour de France crown

Madrid, June 18 (IANS) Spanish cyclist Joaquin 'Purito' Rodriguez believes that he is one of the main contenders to win the Tour de France beginning at the end of June.

The 34-year-old Spaniard has managed podium finishes in the Giro de Italia and Vuelta de Espana races, to highlight his credentials and the fact that he has evolved from a rider who would always be a threat in one day races as a result of his ability to produce a punchy uphill sprint, into a rider capable of competing over three long weeks in the saddle, Xinhua reports.

Now he feels he is prepared to lead the Katusha team in this year's Tour.

"My preparation has gone very well and I am happy with my results," he said in interview with sports paper 'Diario AS'.

"I have got more points from my races than at the same sage last year and the fact I didn't ride this year's Giro, when I was leader last year, means people have not talked so much about me, but my results have been good."

Rodriguez earned his nickname 'Purito', which literally means, 'Little Cigar' as a result of his being so thin. That has helped him to become an aggressive punchy climber, but Rodriguez doesn't believe it is in the mountains where this year's Tour will be won and lost.

"It is in the time trials," he insists. "This year they are not long and flat and you won't have to ride at 55km an hour to win. This year they are shorter but tougher, especially the second one," he said.

A notoriously poor rider against the clock, that is certain to help Rodriguez's challenge this year.

"My aim is to finish as high up the qualification as possible and to try and win a stage. I want to be able to finish the race knowing I am in the position I deserve to be in, be that first or eighth," he said, without refusing to rule out winning and wearing the famous yellow jersey.

"Last year I was second in the Giro and third in the Vuelta and I could have won both of them, so I am not ruling out winning. I am a more mature rider now. I know it will be complicated, but if I am going to rule myself out of winning, it will be at the end, rather than the beginning," said Rodriguez.

When asked about possible rivals, he had no doubt in naming Chris Froome, who will lead the British challenge with the Sky team and recently won the Dauphine Libere race, seen as a prelude to the Tour, along with fellow Spaniards, Alejandro Valverde, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck and 2011 winner Cadel Evans, with Contador as the main man to challenge Froome.

Rodriguez has a warning for all riders preparing for the Tour. You can't win the race in the opening week, but you can most definitely lose it.

"Everyone is nervous and there are a lot of falls. They are dangerous and something will happen before we get to the Alpes, where the winner will be decided," he said.


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