CHINA AND THE TOUR
Firstly, how are you? Have you fully recovered from the stomach ailments you suffered in China?
I am very well, acclimatised to Europe time, and training with great pleasure for the next races, San Sebastian, Germany and the Vuelta a EspaŮa.
Many people said on thePaceline Forum how much they missed Chechu at the Tour. Did you miss the Tour?
In one way, a lot. China was a great distraction, since we had virtually no news of the Tour there. I would have liked to be there with Alberto and do the same job I did in other Tours. Without doubt, the team has been sensational and I'm certain that I would have contributed nothing more.
At the same time, I am happy not to have been at such a rareified Tour, and with such a gloomy environment, because of the doping cases.
Also I am deeply angry that the accusations of doping have led to the explusion by the team of their own leader without any proof.
I think that it is lamentable that we've arrived at this extremes. I applaud the fight against doping and I'm encouraged to see that the system works, and that they punish the cheats, provided that there is proof against them.
Also I think the actions of the French police were disprorportionate, going so far as to detain and search the riders. I don't think that the attitude of a sport cheat is comparable to that of a delinquent.
Do you have any regrets choosing not to ride the Tour?
No. China has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, so different to everything I had known before. Also it has given me a victory.
Everybody will be talking and writing about Alberto Contador. He's inspired so many people, but you know him well. What are your impressions of him as fellow climber and team-mate? How will he cope with the media attention?
He is a great cyclist and a great person. I'm very happy to see someone so humble on top of the podium without any change to his manner, paying attention to the press and the fans with simplicity and humility.
In my opinion, also, he is one of the greatest talents in the history of cycling. He has something special that makes him a champion with a potential to improve.
The setbacks that he has overcome (his health problems) make him also someone very special, and this reminds us of the problems Lance Armstrong went through.
Benjamin was hurt early in the Tour, and won praise for his commitment and courage. Presumably you spoke with him, did you give him any advice?
No, only encouragement. Benja is a very tough cyclist, and the fall he suffered would have sent most riders straight home. But he is strong as a horse, and was able to bear it until he could recover, and he did a great job in the final stages of the Tour.
Lance is quoted this week, saying that the team's Tour objectives were the white jersey and a stage win. Do you have similar objectives for the Vuelta?
No, I have not set any objectives. I hope to be in good physical condition in order to do a good race, and most important, ENJOY my job.
You have a couple of races before the Vuelta, in San Sebastian and Germany. What are you hoping to get from these races?
I hope to do well, participate in breakaways and support the team leaders, and that they (the races) help as preparation for the Vuelta.
This is your 14th season as a pro cyclist and the media calls you a veteran! Looking back at neo-pro Chechu Rubiera, 22 years old in 1995, how have your professional ambitions changed?
For several years now, I have had a clear picture of my capabilities and know that to win a race is very difficult ...
I am fully aware that work is very important and I try to do it well. At the same time, I try to get a good general classification in all the races I attend. To win stages by joining breakaways is something really rather difficult.
Youíve been loyal to US Postal and Discovery, what is special about the ethos and environment of this team?
There is a very friendly and professional atmosphere. Anyway, I am a loyal rider and if I am happy in a team, I donít want to change.
In fact, I only changed teams once in my whole career, from Kelme to US Postal. The budget was different and of course, also the offer I received. My first professional team was Artiach. The following year, it merged with Kelme, so I ended up with this team but it was not intentional. For this reason, I say I only changed teams once.
Youíve raced throughout Europe, how important is it to ride the stages of, for example, a Grand Tour in advance? Will you be looking at any stages of the Vuelta?
Knowing the stages is always good. It's valuable to know in advance the profile of the stage in order to regulate your efforts.
Every year, especially in the Tour, new stages are introduced, and if there are hard climbs or time trials itís important to know them. Itís usually good training too. The problem is that it forces you to leave home for several days which I donít like too much.
For the Vuelta a EspaŮa, I know almost the whole circuit and have not yet decided whether I will be looking specially at any stages.
You told us that the Giro was your favourite race. After this tough year, is it still your favourite?
Yes, I enjoy riding the Giro. Enthusiasm is high and this gives a lot of motivation. The food, the people, the circuit ... I enjoy it all.
When the peloton is rolling along, saving energy for difficult stages to come, what do you talk about with the other cyclists?
We talk about all sorts of things, family, the race, the future ... Itís not very different from the conversations you would have with other friends in a different environment.
Reports from within the team suggested that everyone was exhausted and disappointed, yet Lizís photos in week 3 showed a happy and relaxed group. What was the reality?
There was a good atmosphere. In the group, we had all known each other for a long time and we were all good tempered. The race results were a bit disappointing but once in the hotel, we had a good time. Whatís certain is that we did our best, but our opponents were better than us. Thatís sport.
There were complaints about the transfer from Sardinia, did this affect you?
Transfers are the worst part in the Giro. Almost every day, we had to do lots of kilometres to reach the departure point or the hotel, and the trip from Sardinia to Naples was a disaster. In that respect the Giro should do better.
Once again in this Giro, you had to race for 12 days straight. How hard was that?
Itís too much. Itís necessary to change cycling and make it more human. The rest days should be planned in a better way. More or less every 6 days we should have a rest day.
How was your health during the Giro? Have your allergies been an issue this year?
There is always something bothering me but it was not too bad. Itís not a good time of the year for allergies.
You are the Member Deputy of the UCIPT Ridersí Council. What is the Ridersí Council and what does your job entail?
I represent the riders and my role is to give and transmit the ridersí general opinion in order to improve our sport with respect to security, health, remuneration, doping ...
Are you concerned that initiatives to tackle doping in cycling, such as UCIís contract for the Tour and mandatory DNA samples, are compromising cyclistsí rights?
I am convinced that they hurt our rights. I want to fight doping and create every obstacle I can to unmask those who resort to doping. But before we are riders, we are human beings. I cannot understand why we should be required to sign letters that infringe our rights.
TOUR DE FRANCE
Now that the Tour is only two weeks away, how do you feel about not racing this year?
Well, I think that I will be focussed on the race in China (Tour of Qinghai Lake, 14 to 22 July). Because of this, I wonít be able to follow the Tour with sufficient interest. I chose to do the Giro and the Vuelta, three big tours is too much.
I am sure that I will miss the Tour from time to time because itís the most important race in the calendar.
Which three riders will stand on the podium in Paris?
Vinokourov, KlŲden and Contador.
When the film of Lanceís life is made, which Spanish actor would you like to play Chechu Rubiera?
I like Antonio Banderas as an actor and I think he is a good person too. (Make up your own mind at this Banderas FANSITE.)
What would make a Spanish man cry?
Like any other person, intolerence and lack of respect between cultures and religions. Terrorism is part of it.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Laura. Sometimes it seems to me that time flies, and everything goes so fast that we donít take advantage of whatís most important in life. Too many obligations....
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
To my childhood, when I was about 10.
When you close your eyes and think of Asturias, what do you see?
I see green mountains and blue sea.
Sea or mountains, what's more inspiring to you? And where's the best view in Asturias?
Mountains. I like the sea too, but not in the summer. The Picos de Europa, the highest montains in Asturias. That's where the famous Lagos de Covadonga climb is.
What's your favourite local training route, why?
Many. I look for quiet roads, and we are lucky with this. We can find many roads with almost no traffic. I'll tell you a couple of routes:
Pola de Siero - Infiesto - Collada de Arnicio - Campo Caso - Pola Laviana - Faya los Lobos - Nava - Pola de Siero and,
Pola de Siero - Arriondas - El Fitu - Colunga - Villaviciosa - Tazones - Venta les Ranes - Pedrosu - Peon - La Fumarea - Pola de Siero
Asturians are Celtic descendents, independent and tough. What do you like best about the Asturian character? Is there anything you dislike?
I think that we are very hospitable, even when we were fighting for independents. Everybody has flaws, sometimes we are fanfarrones, boastful or showy.
It's clear from the media, you're celebrated and much loved in Asturias, how does this affect your daily life?
It doesnīt effect me. Some people who likes cycling know me, and some others knows who I am even when they donīt like cycling. But I have a completely normal life. I go where ever I want and I can do what ever I want.
Sometimes someone ask me about my programme or they wish me good luck but nothing that could bother me or anyone.
You support Asturian issues, do you think you would ever enter local politics?
What's your favourite Asturian word?
Folixa, it means party!
What are the possibilities for an Asturian pro-cycle team, and would you like to coach such a team?
Not much chance, I think, at least for a Pro Tour Team. We can not afford it. There aren't many large, private companies with a big budget here.
Along with other local Asturian sports stars, you've set up a new business promoting activity and sports tourism, can you tell us more about this?
We are ten guys, we want to offer cycling, karting, trekking and canoeing with professional sports stars.
We also offer talks for companies who want to know about team work, sacrifice and things like that which can transfer from sport to business.
You live in a traditional house, but we caught glimpses of contemporary style. Who's responsible for that, you or Laura, and does art have a place in your home?
Laura. And she also paints great paintings!
And finally, we'd love you tell us a secret. Something we don't know about you, perhaps something you're very good at ... maybe?
I love to cook and I'm not bad at it ...