Feliz 31 cumpleaños Dani!
They say that behind every successful man is a woman. By that token, in front of every successful Grand Tour winner is his wing-man. Joaquim Rodriguez was the UCI’s top-ranked rider in 2010 but I think we can all agree he’s turned the dial up a notch since Katusha brought in Dani Moreno to help him – a rider who, quite unbelievably, has at times struggled to find a contract.
So on Dani’s 31st birthday, we’re delving into his background to find out when and where he started cycling. Like a lot of today’s riders, his father was a keen amateur cyclist and once his older brother started riding Dani wanted to ride too. [Why am I not surprised? – Ed] In 1993, he got his first bike for Christmas, joined his local club and straight away started racing. As a youngster, his petite size mitigated against him winning too many races. Nonetheless he progressed through the ranks of various cycling clubs finally ending up riding for VC Portillo, the best team in Madrid, at which point he started winning.
He then joined team Level, a feeder team for continental team Alcosto, where competition for places was fierce. But Dani moved up to Alcosto in his second year and two years later, after winning a number of races, was signed in his last year as an under-23 rider by ProContinental team Relax as a replacement for an injured rider. His first race for them was the 2004 Tour of Britain where he finished sixth overall: an auspicious start to his burgeoning career.
2005 was Dani’s first full season as a professional and he picked up a few podiums but the following year, his early season was blighted by a knee injury that forced him to retire from the Tour de Langkawi. He was soon back in the saddle to record his first professional stage win in the Clasica Alcobendas on the Navacerrada, Dani’s favourite climb. He went on to finish third overall. Further victories and podium finishes followed plus he took part in his first Vuelta a Espana.
Dani’s progression continued in 2007 where he enjoyed his best ever season winning three races and tasting more success while racing all over South America. He finished the season with a 12th place overall in his second Vuelta a Espana. Unfortunately, Relax collapsed in late 2007 and Dani didn’t find a place on another team until March the following year. He finally got a contract with Caisse d’Epargne where he rode for two seasons in the service of Alejandro Valverde.
Dani had won races every year since turning professional and wanted an opportunity to also be a team leader in some of the smaller stage races. To that end in 2010 he moved to Omega Pharma-Lotto to support Cadel Evans’ Grand Tour aspirations. It was not a happy move, Evans jumped ship to BMC and Dani disappeared among his mighty Belgian teammates. It was his first year without a win – not even a podium.
In 2011, he joined Katusha to ride in support of Rodriguez, who he’d known at Caisse d’Epargne. It was a marriage made in heaven as Dani returned to winning ways with stages in the Giro del Piemonte, Vuelta al Burgos and, finally, the fourth stage of Vuelta a Espana and ninth overall.
He’s gone even better this year with victories in GP Miguel Indurain, a stage in Vuelta a Andalucia, two stages in the Critérium du Dauphiné and two stages plus the overall in the Vuelta al Burgos, where Rodriguez rode as Dani’s domestique – reward for the assistance he was afforded by Dani in achieving the runners-up spot in the Giro d’Italia.
The dream team are currently on course to go one better in this year’s Vuelta a Espana. Though it would appear as if, despite Dani’s invaluable assistance, Rodriguez is leaving nothing to chance:
@benspies11 hi Ben, I need a pleasure: do you have a motorbike for the last week of the Vuelta :))). You’re number 1. C you in Valencia
— Joaquim Rodríguez (@PuritoRodriguez) September 2, 2012