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Rodriguez has no regrets staying with Katusha

By Gennady Fyodorov

BRESCIA, Italy (Reuters) - Cycling world number one Joaquim Rodriguez has no regrets about signing a new deal with Katusha in the off-season despite the Russian team facing exclusion from the World Tour.

The sport's world governing body (UCI) has rejected Katusha's application to compete in the World Tour next year because of the team's doping record over the past four years.

Katusha, who finished second in the World Tour standings this year, have appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"Yes, it's true that I had a chance to go to another team after this season was finished," Rodriguez told Reuters after Katusha's official presentation in the Italian city of Brescia on Wednesday.

"I had a very good season in 2012, so I won't deny that I wanted to renegotiate my contract. I wanted a bigger contract," he said through an interpreter. "Who wouldn't?"

The stocky Spaniard, nicknamed 'Purito', had a superb season in 2012. In May, he won two stages in the Giro d'Italia, finishing second overall to Canadian Ryder Hesjedal.

Rodriguez also finished third overall in the Spanish Vuelta in September before winning the final major classic race - Tour of Lombardy - to claim top spot in the World Tour standings ahead of Britain's Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins.

"So after such a good season many teams wanted me. I've had many offers but I got a very good deal from Katusha, so I decided to stay," Rodriguez said.

Asked if he regretted his decision and if he changed his mind knowing that Katusha would be kicked out of the top flight, the 33-year-old said: "No, I've given my word to the team and I'm going to stick with it. I plan to fulfil my commitments.

"I know the team is appealing the UCI decision, so hopefully I'll get a chance to ride both the Giro and Vuelta again next year," he added.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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