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Valerio Piva: “Purito can win the Vuelta”

As was the case in the last years, Joaquim Rodriguez will start the Vuelta as one of the main contenders. Coming after a 3rd place in the Tour de France, the Katusha rider has strong ambitions, his target being the overall victory in a race that has 11 stages with an uphill finish. After he lost the race last year despite being the strongest rider, “Purito” is determined to take the win now, a feeling echoed by his sports director, Valerio Piva, in this interview I’ve made with the help of Katusha’s press officer, Mister Paolo Grillandi.

– Mister Piva, Joaquim Rodriguez didn’t race between the finish of  the Tour de France and the start of the Vuelta. What did he do during this period?

Joaquim focused especially on recovering some energy after a really demanding competition such as the Tour de France. “Purito” was in a great shape in the last week, but the effort he made to enter the podium of the Grande Boucle was incredibly hard, so he needed and deserved some rest. Then, he started to train: he already has the race rythm, so trainings are not so demanding, they’re all about accumulating some hours of racing and preparing for the time trials, which will be crucial for the general classification.

– What would you say are his chances of finally winning a Grand Tour?

“Purito” is a great one-day race specialist, but he definitely proved to be a great rider in big stage races too, as witnessed by the three podiums in a row between 2012 and 2013 in all the major Tours – Giro, Vuelta and Tour. Unfortunately he missed some chances to win: especially I think in the 2012 Vuelta, where he was the strongest rider, but he lost because of a bad day. Anyway, he’s one of the favorites for this competition, the rivals are very strong, but our team is too, so we’ll see how’s it going to end.

– Many are saying that this edition of the Vuelta seems to not have a really big favourite. Do you agree with this?

I think there will be many strong riders, such as Vincenzo Nibali, Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi, Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez. And let’s not forget a strong team such as Sky, which won’t have Chris Froome or Bradley Wiggins, but still will have many great riders. It will be a demanding competition.

– What do you think of this year’s route in comparison with the one of 2012?

Vuelta a España will have a demanding course, as usual, suitable to great climbers. The races against the clock will be only two, but it will be very important not to lose too much time in those stages. Then, of course, the race will be decided by the mountain stages: there will be 11 uphill finishes, with Angliru in the last but one stage. The first uphill finish will be in the second day, right after TTT; that means there will be no chance to start slowly and increase as the stages will go by, we will have to stay focused from the beginning to the end.

– Which stages will have a major role for the overall standings?

I think Coll de la Gallina, Peyragudes, Peña Cabarga and Angliru, between the others.

– After a full season, in which he raced two very hard Grand Tours (Le Tour and Vuelta), do you believe Joaquim Rodriguez will still be in top shape for the World Championships?

It depends on how he will feel after Vuelta. Let’s not forget that last year “Purito” raced the Giro and Vuelta, finishing 2nd and 3rd in the overall standings, he won Flèche Wallonne, and in the end he had enough energies to win the Giro di Lombardia too. He proved to be the most regular rider of the last years, winning twice the UCI Individual World Ranking in the last three seasons. We’re preparing very carefully these events, he will have a strong team to help him, he’s a great rider, so we’ll see.

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