Joaquim Rodríguez wants to finish his career on a high

Joaquím Rodríguez has won the Flèche Wallonne, Il Lombardia twice and stages in the Tour de France, but he says that he decided to cancel his retirement plans because he was not happy with how his movie had ended.

The Rodríguez sequel continues with him with team Bahrain-Merida after seven years in Katusha‘s red colours. This week, the team led by manager Brent Copeland is meeting in Croatia.

“If I close my eyes and think about how this year ended, I’m not happy,” Rodríguez told Tutto Bici. “It was not how I had imagined the movie would end. I wasn’t happy with it.”

The 37-year-old counts nine stage wins in the Vuelta a España and three in the Tour de France. He’s stepped on the final podium in all three grand tours, but never as the winner.

In the 2012 Giro d’Italia, Ryder Hesjedal overtook him in the final day’s time trial.

The small punchy Catalan pulled the plug after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where he placed fifth in the road race after a season that included seventh in the Tour. Katusha, however, pushed him to continue in three Italian one-day classics – he recorded a DNF in each one.

“I was convinced that the moment arrived to say basta with racing, instead the last races didn’t go how I wanted them to and there was some misunderstanding with the team,” Rodríguez added.

“I’d won Lombardia two times and I wasn’t able to make a difference this year. Instead, I want to go out like Cancellara, in good form and in a big race.”

Bahrain will become the Middle East’s first top team with Italian grand tour star Vincenzo Nibali at the helm. Rodríguez would add fire power to the Ardennes Classics and could race in the grand tours, as well.

“Before making me an offer, the team asked me what I wanted to do,” Rodríguez continued. “They were interested in me. I felt valued.”

He and the team will write their schedule this week in Croatia. During the season, Rodríguez is expected to slowly transition from rider to mentor. His contract runs until 2019.

“To stay at home after a lifetime on the road around the world is complicated,” he said.

“To just watch a race as a fan seems absurd. In other words, I still felt like a cyclist. I was convinced on quitting, but in a month and a half everything changed.”

The UCI reportedly could accept 18 teams now for the 2017 WorldTour instead of cutting the number to 17, as the governing body had said it would.

It had come under too much fire from the teams for wanting to leave out Bahrain-Merida, Bora-Hansgrohe (with Peter Sagan) or Dimension Data (with Mark Cavendish).

The decision was due to be made on points. Bora had sat above Bahrain and in last, Dimension Data. Bahrain, though, wanted to be sure of a WorldTour licence, Cycling Weekly understands. It jumped ahead of Bora and to the top of the candidate teams when it signed Rodríguez.