» Un Mensaje de Chechu
Hello to everyone,
One year more, and I think I am the luckiest guy in the peloton. Even when the situation is so critical in professional cycling - not many teams, not many sponsors - I will do what I like the most for one more year. To ride my bike around the world. And thanks to Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel, I will do it again.
As usual, I will try to do it as fast as I can, trying to be a good team-mate, a good professional, giving my best.
It is going to be an special year. Many things will be new for me, new team-mates, new sponsor in Radio Shack, Cima Chechu Rubiera in the Vuelta, but especially I will be father! That doesn't happen very often, eh?
So I start to train with great motivation and as usual, enjoying what I like so much.
I just hope that the new year will be better for cycling in general, bringing us more sponsors to help the young guys make their dream come true, just like me. Let's hope for the new generation of cyclists who expect to be professional in these years of crisis.
And to all those who have been supporting me for these 15 years already, THANK YOU! You guys are amazing, don't you realise that I am not a winner yet? Don't expect me to change now, I am too old for winning the TDF, je je je!!
I just can promise you to do my best as always, to put in every pedal all my illusion and sacrifice to improve myself, as everyone should try to do, no matter what profession we have.
Once again, thanks for all these years. You can imagine how important for me you are! And I know you are there, even when I am not a winner.
Photograph © Christine Kahane
How is the future father doing? We suppose it's a great joy to become a father at 37?
I am fine and very much looking forward to it. I was longing to be a father and hope that all will go well.
How is Laura?
Laura is perfectly well, it's like nothing was happening, she leads a totally normal life.
When's her due date?
Around the 28th of March.
Do you know yet if it's a boy or a girl?
No, we still don't know and we don't mind. We only hope that everything goes well.
Have you chosen a name?
Not yet, we are hesitating between several possibilities.
In Spain, the first boy often takes his father's name. Will it be the case if your baby is a boy?
We are not sure. And we have not chosen a nickname!
What about the nursery?
We'll use a room which was empty until now and will not change the colour nor the decoration. It's yellow and the only thing we'll do is give it a baby touch with little dummies, and toys hanging from the ceiling or similar things.
Do they use in Spain blue for a boy and pink for a girl?
Have you ever changed nappies?
A complete novelty!
Are there any Asturian traditional lullabies?
I don't know any Asturian lullabies only Spanish ones: "Duermete niño que viene el coco y te comera."
Will you teach him Asturian from birth?
Of course, like we were brought up to speak.
Will you encourage your child to be a professional cyclist?
He can choose what he wants, it will always be fine with me!
What do you wish most for your child?
We suppose that your baby will be an inspiration for you throughout your last season as a professional?
What are your thoughts on this season overall? Highlights?
It was not so good ... I never had good feelings except at the first part of the season. California and Castilla y Leon. I hope to be better next year.
Did you find out the cause of your illness during the Vuelta? And how are you feeling now?
I had flu and sinusitis.
You did four races with Lance this year. Just like old times?
Yes, it was fun!
Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana
Lance is already playing Contador as he did with old rivals, Ullrich and Pantani. Can this psychology be successful again?
I don't know. Lance is really strong mentally but Contador also. Contador is younger but Lance has more experience and he knows better how to deal with media, rivals ...
UCI have just decided to ban two-way radios. A good idea?
I don't think so. We need communication, it is good for us.I t is safe and better for doing our job.
Is there an awareness within professional cycling of the sport's environmental impact?
For sure. Everyone now is aware but when you are on the bike suffering, sometimes you don't think too much ...
Photograph © Laura Alber, cyclingfans.com
2010. When did you start thinking about riding for another season?
Early in the season. When Lance told me that he would do one more year if the feelings were good.
What is the appeal of RadioShack?
For me, Lance, Johan, Acevedo. It is a familiar team for me. Like the old times.
What's your role in the new team?
I don't know yet. I hope to be good and to do a good job.
Have you had lots of contact with the team yet?
Not much yet.
You want a reduced programme in 2010. What races would you like to ride?
I don't know yet, but definitely not two big tours. Just one.
Have you heard any more about Alonso's plan for a new team?
No, he likes cycling and it would be really good for cycling to involve a guy like him in this business. And he would enjoy going to the training camps and races.
Barlata. Are you going to spend time there this Autumn?
Yes, I will try to go for one week or so ar the end of this month.
We've seen photos. It looks great! Is there any cycling memorabilia?
We have some jerseys from Lance and from me.
Is there live music?
No. That's a good point.
Do the staff speak Spanish?
Some do. Some are Mexicans.
The most popular dish?
Patatas bravas, rabo de toro, and paella.
Your favourite wine. Red or white?
Red from Ribera del Duero
Chechu is at home, training and watching the Tour de France on television. Is he missing being there, with "the best team in the world"? We think so. Rebecca caught up with him during the first week of the race.
Photograph © Christine Kahane
Are you enjoying watching the Tour on TV ?
Yes, although I must admit that I am a bit jealous, in a healthy way. I would like to be there with the team, experiencing a historical moment in the cycling world. Contador and Armstrong together! Two of the best riders of all time in the same team, in my team, and I am stuck home!
But there is no question that the teammates who are there deserve it. This is the problem of being part of the best team in the world. The selection for the the most important event is very difficult but Johan, who can make mistakes like anybody else, always makes a decision taking into account what is best for the team. The interests to be defended are those of Astana, who are paying, and not mine nor anyone else's.
What do you think of the route? Do you think that it favours any rider in particular?
I think that the final week is very hard, that one must keep some strength in reserve, and that it was very important not to come to the Tour saturated with too many prior races, nor wear oneself out from the start.
What you think of Astana's team in France?
It's very good. We are the best team in the world and it's not easy to be part of it. And it's even more difficult to be part of the Tour. Johan takes his decisions always in the best interests of the team. He can make a mistake or be right, but until now his record cannot be faulted. He is very good at his job.
The press is trying to create controversy about a split in the Astana team. Without a doubt, fans are divided into two (or more) parts. What would you say to them about this?
I think it's not negative polemic. Cycling creates opinions and generates atmosphere. From a publicity point of view, it's a good thing, the sponsors can see how much time the media spend on talking about the Tour and cycling.
But one should always make assertions with respect and a sporting reasoning. In Spain, people want Contador to win, which is normal, but it's a team sport and Johan has to take into account the team's interests, not only those of one rider, whether it be Armstrong or Contador. Time will tell who is right. The analysis is very different depending on who does it. The Spanish press thinks it's detrimental to Contador and the world's press thinks that Astana is the strongest team in the world because it holds more than one card.
Your friend and teammate Benjamin Noval is not riding the Tour. Does he feel disappointed not to get to ride in the same team with both his previous leader Armstrong and his new leader Contador?
Benja is very annoyed. He trained a lot for this race and was in very good condition. But it's Johan who decides what is best for the team and one must repect his decision. He does everything in favour of Astana's interests, not on a whim.
Is Contador going miss Noval?
You are training for the Vuelta, how is it going?
Yes, I am enjoying training, hoping to ride a good Vuelta.
Do you ever train on the Cima Chechu Rubiera?
Yes, but not very often.
Amid the spectacular scenery of Italy, Chechu worked hard in support of his team leaders during the 2009 Giro. It was a hard race, and Chechu's results were mixed. He's now at home in Asturias.
Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana
We could see from your photos, and the LiveStrong videos, that this Giro was a hard race. You looked exhausted in week 3. With two weeks at home, what are your thoughts about the race overall? And your results?
Well, I was pretty disappointed. During training, I had really good feelings so I expected to be with the best 20 riders of the race but I was not there. Now I am better, I just see that my condition was not good. Maybe because the season was too hard and too long leading up to the Giro.
Before the race, we talked about the ancient history of Italy. Did it make any impression on you? The time trial in Rome was spectacular for TV, hope it felt special for you too.
Yes, it was pretty good, with Vesubio, Roma, Venecia ... just the parcours was very dangerous many times, with tunnels with no light, too narrow roads. They should take care of this things.
How are the allergies?
Not good ... but (it) cannot be an excuse. Even with that, I should be better.
From the videos, it didn't seem that the US team members enjoyed the Giro, and said they wouldn't be back. It wasn't clear why. Too hard? Too fast?
Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana
Your next scheduled race is San Sebastian in August. What are your plans for the early summer?
I will start to train again next week and I will start to race again maybe in San Sebastian or Burgos ... but I don't know yet. I will be focusing on the Vuelta a España!
Which young cyclists in the peloton today are making a big impression on you?
Some cyclists still think they can cheat and get away with it. Is it just down to individual ambition and arrogance, or other pressures?
Money. Money. And maybe fame and social prestige.
Now, sooner or later, they will be caught. It is a matter of time. But they are just a few, maybe 2 in a peloton of 200.
What do cyclists themselves need to do to rescue their sport? Who's going to take the lead?
Maybe just keep in this direction against doping and try to be more discreet (in the media). We should remove the cheats from this sport, but nobody should know because saying to the media means losing sponsors, jobs and hope.
Cycling has been never before so clean! We pass so many controls that is almost impossible for the cheat not to be caught. And at the same time, people and especially the media, should be more impartial. They think cycling is not clean, but they don't see that there is no any other sport with so many controls!
Things like hematocrit don't exist in other sports, but we are the bad boys. Superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, they skip one control (he did it) and nothing happens. (Le Monde reported in 2006 that) the famous singer Johnny Hallyday, a friend of Zinédine Zidane, said that the footballer recommended transfusions to him, as he does it ... and nothing happens. Imagine what would happen to a cyclist!
The Tour is two weeks away. It seemed that your team-mates might ride without their wages guarantee lodged at the UCI. Did this worry you?
A little bit. But I think that the sponsor wants to stay in cycling for many more years and the country has the ability to find the money.
Mont Ventoux makes an exciting race, what are your memories of the mountain? It's the penultimate stage in the Tour, is that a good idea?
Yes, it is going to be really exciting if the Tour is not decided yet. I remember it as one of the hardest montains.
Do you think you might consider becoming a commentator or cycling journalist?
I don't know ... maybe.
And an unusual question from a fan! Do you like to sing, or whistle while you work?
Yes, but not in the race!
Chechu continues to train hard with good motivation for his next big race, the Giro d'Italia.
And what a race! With an opening team time trial in Venice and an historic climb of Mount Vesuvius, the race ends with a spectacular ITT round the ancient monuments of Rome.
As the Giro makes its way through classic Italian landscapes, the devastating earthquake earlier this month will not be far from hearts and minds.
This will be a centenary race to remember.
(part 2, 30 April)
Do you see a special mission for the Giro this year, to encourage and inspire the people of Italy after the earthquake?
Yes. It’s a tragedy. We hope at least to entertain all those people who have ve been affected by the earthquake and, for a few hours each day, to make a spectacle for everyone affected (by the earthquake) to enjoy.
As a cyclist and an engineer, what do you think of the route of a Giro that goes from the canals of Venice to the Forum of Rome?
It’s a very special route, and one that seems to touch the most significant points for cultural heritage and Italian tourism.
Something that especially impresses me is the Roman ruins. The level of development that they had reached over 2000 years ago is surprising. Aqueducts, bridges, city sanitation … and the especially the Colisseum, it’s admirable. We can be considered the gladiators of the 21st century!
Will you be able to enjoy the majesty of your surroundings when you ride the time trial in Rome?
In this time trial, I suppose I won’t be competing for anything significant myself (like the podium, for example), so there won’t be much pressure.
Still, I always want to do well, and there’s no time to enjoy the surroundings very much. In 2000, we did the prologue in Rome and finished at the Vatican. It was really lovely. Pope John Paul received us the day before in an audience for all the cyclists in the peloton of that Giro.
(part 1, 27 April)
How is your health, during the last race you were struggling with your springtime allergies?
I am going much better. I hope not to suffer there with the allergies but who knows ... The problem this year is that it is more difficult to get authorisation from the UCI for using the medication.
Stage 3, Vuelta a Castilla y Leon 2009. Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana
Are there stages which stand out for you as most challenging? Crucial to the overall?
I don't know the parcours yet ... I promise. But I know that the first week is harder this year so I will try to be in better shape at the start. And if I am in good form, any mountain stage could be good hopefully.
What about a stage win for Chechu Rubiera, which stage suits you best?
It will depend on the leaders, guys like Lance or Levi. If they are prepared to win the overall, then it is a matter of teamwork and not many chances to try something.
If we have nobody for the overall, then I will look for the break aways.
There are a few 200km+ stages this year, most with climbing. Do you train any differently for such long stages?
Not especially. Some long training rides (over 5 hours) and as usual for the big tours, long climbs ( 45 minutes to 1 hour climbing).
You've said in the past that the Giro schedule has not favoured the cyclists, with long transfers. Do you have any concerns this year?
Yes, but I see that they don't care about our complaints. They just care about their business and it's the same with the UCI. So there is nothing we can do ...
Sometimes I understand. It is a long country and to cross it, you need to do many kilometers by bus. But there should be a limit. It's not normal to get to the hotel later than 7pm after the stage, yet this often happens in the Giro.
Vesuvius. It'll be a memorable climb for the fans, but what about you? Have you climbed it before?
No, I don't know it. But I am excited. It looks historic to me. Pompeii, where the gladiator Spartacus took refuge trying to escape and be free ...
Mount Vesuvius. The final climb for Stage 19, Giro d'Italia 2009
The Tour of California is done. What's Chechu's verdict?
Stage 8. After a week of controlling the peloton, Astana had to defend and chase. Levi was isolated for a while, and you and Lance chased. Was a sense of urgency or panic?
Yes, but we were confident in coming back in the downhill, Popo, Lance and me working together. The thing was that, if they were really well organised in the front, it could be difficult for us.
Stage 8, Tour of California 2009.
Photograph © Doug Pensinger/Getty Images, zimbio.com
There was also speculation of a deal with Quick Step later, do you know if that's true?
I don't know, but they had also chances for the sprint.
You sprinted for the line in Escondido, finishing 6th. It was great result after such a long day (and week), and I guess you didn't plan it. But was it fun?
Yes, but 5 places better would be much better!
Live coverage of ToC09 has brought a new audience to cycling in Europe, especially in the UK. Were you aware there were so many people watching (and enjoying) the race live in the evening?
Not so many, but I read some emails from friends who told me that they were watching the race on Eurosport. They said that it was really difficult to stay awake!
There's talk of moving ToC to later to April, because of the weather. What are your thoughts about this, given that the weather can be bad in any race?
It would be good for the weather and bad because it means Tour of Georgia would be finished forever.
American fans are enthusiastic, but there were some dangerous moments. Does the enthusiasm of Californian fanatics feel any different to that of the tifosi or the Basques? Did you have a near-miss this year?
They are really nice with us and funny, but they try to do the same as some others do here in Europe, running with us for a while. Some of them are really dangerous when they run too close to us.
You said after Tour Down Under that Lance is strong. Commentators thought he was finding it tough in California. What do you think? And you were super-gregarios together. How did that work out?
He is really strong. He has some work to do to lose some weight (muscle) to be better in the long mountains. He is heavy now, not because he is fat, he is really strong. And he did a great job for Levi. It was really nice to see the team work and the atmosphere with Lance and the others.
We are especially lucky to catch up with Chechu this week before he heads to the USA for a few busy weeks. First, he'll join the rest of Team Astana at training camp in Santa Rosa, before heading to Sacramento for the start of Tour of California.
When do you leave for the States?
On Saturday. I will do a few days of the training camp and then I will stay there until the Tour of California.
You've mentioned in the media about riding the Vuelta again, is this officially in your schedule?
Yes, at least that is what Johan said to me in the last training camp in Tenerife.
There was lots of concern for you after the crash on Stage 3, Tour Down Under. What happened, did you have a change of bike, and how are you now?
We were going pretty fast, maybe 65km/h and it was really windy. There was a crash in front of me, maybe 15 guys and I could do nothing to avoid it.
I was really lucky because many guys in this crash were injured, with some broken bones and me just bruises. The bike had both wheels broken and the team car was with Lance and Jesus in the breakaway, so I had to wait for the neutral car and I lost many minutes. I am totally recovered now.
Photograph © Mark Gunter, Tour Down Under
In the northern hemisphere, we don't often have the opportunity to cuddle a kangaroo. How did that feel
It is really nice. We didn't see any wild, free kangaroos, but we saw the koalas free in eucalyptus trees. We saw a few on training and they just sleep most of the time but are really cute.
Last year, we visited a zoo and there we could touch and cuddle kangaroos and koalas.
Lance's return is such big news, and it's interesting to learn about his new motivation and his mission three years on. Things must have changed for you too since 1995, so do you feel a new motivation?
This year, I have a new motivation to try to help Lance in some of the races we will do together. He is such a nice person with me and I would like to see him winning again. He has big motivation and the best engine I ever met. He is a super athlete and his condition is really good and will improve a lot yet.
And what he is doing with the LAF Foundation is really good, using cycling to promote the fight against cancer.
BarLata is opening soon. Do you have an opening date yet, and when are you planning to visit? What's your favourite tapas? Have you made an special requests for the menu at BarLata? Can you explain why "tin can"?
We hope to open soon, this month. We are really excited and I hope to visit it in California.
I asked to have some tapas from Asturias and some dishes too like fabada or queso cabrales.
Lata is a typical Spanish word and we will have some good products in latas from Spain, like sardines, tuna . . . and we will serve some tapas in latas like a different plate.
BarLata 4901 Telegraph Avenue Oakland CA