Now it is normal to see a good part of the group residing in Andorra. “The altitude, the safety on the roads, the hotels prepared for the needs of the cycling teams, some even already offering packages for those who come to test, the large number of ports, all with their respective signage and marking each kilometer miss crowning… it’s a great place for bike lovers,” Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodríguez tells this newspaper.
According to the ex-racer’s latest data, “around 120 active cyclists” currently live in Andorra. He was the first to take the plunge in 2007. “Before, cyclists came droppers. Now, almost every rider who arrives already has teammates here. I have my son and daughter (14 and 12) who are already Andorran, although horse riding doesn’t appeal to them. In addition, the girl came out as a Madrid fan… ”, laughs Purito, a well-known Barça fan.
He usually goes out to train with riders like Enric Mas and also, among others, Aleix Espargaró, a Moto GP rider. Joaquim himself is a major asset in Andorra with his sporting contributions, such as La Purito, a cycling tour that people from different corners of Europe sign up for, especially Spain (this year it will be on August 6).
However, despite knowing ‘his land’ like no one else, Purito has a small thorn in his side with this territory: “I’ve never won here. In 2010 I arrived at the Vuelta as leader, but I lost it against Igor Antón. In 2012 I also finished first overall, and this time I kept it”. In that edition he came close to victory, in a three-way duel for the stage in which he finished second, behind Contador and in front of Valverde.
Also with the Tour he was present at the arrivals in Andorra, and both in the return As in the French round he accumulated positions of honor, except for the aforementioned victory. “I feel very comfortable here. We have to advertise all the ports we have, because there are still some that have not entered the tender and we hope that it will happen soon, as it will happen with Arinsal this summer.
Although the stage is on a Monday, you will experience intense days in Andorra: “Besides La Vuelta, in those days (end of August) we will do a BTT World Cup test. It will be a celebration of total cycling”. Meanwhile Purito, who retired in 2016, continues as ambassador, commentator, in criterium… always on the bike.