from Daily Peloton, March 2005
Los Tres Hombres de las Montanas...
Cathy Mehl writes, A few months back, the Daily Peloton had the privilege of sitting down with Jose Luis Rubiera, Manuel Beltran and Benjamin Noval in Solvang, California, during their winter training camp. Bringing along my Spanish-speaking friend, Christina Guzman, we had an enjoyable hour with these three mountain-men of Discovery Channel Professional Cycling Team.
It’s great to have you back in Solvang for training once again. Where is your favorite place to train and why?
I have to say the same as Benjamin. My home. My place. Because the weather there is not as nice as here, but where we live we can also have a long climb, 15K or 20K, and that really works well, especially before the Tour. Also near home we have a nice group of people that we train with, so to me it’s the best place. Also then I’m close to my family.
You’ll do the Tour this year, right?
I think I am in the pre-selection group. I think there are probably twelve riders on the list right now and I think I am one of them. I haven’t talked to Johan yet so I don’t know my schedule all the way up to the Tour, but yes, I hope to be riding in the Tour.
As you begin your fifth year with this team, what advice do you hand out to the younger riders that have joined the team?
This is a nice group of people here. There is a good atmosphere on the team, we’re trying to help the new guys with everything that they could need. I hope to help them in any way I can. We are fifteen different nationalities, and up to now it has been great.
You also rode five years with Kelme. Can you tell me the differences you see between Kelme and Discovery?
Kelme was a team with a smaller budget and that’s an important point in training. They couldn’t afford all of this (pointing at his trick Nike sweats). For example, it’s real expensive to do this training camp here, and we could never afford that with Kelme. With Kelme we always did our camp in Spain in a hotel not as nice as this and for not as long. It costs a lot. A lot of other teams don’t have it this nice because it’s not in the budget. Also, with the small teams, things are not so fancy. You see with this team that we are always prepared, especially for the Tour. They take care of everything for us. During the Tour, everything is controlled, even our food. That way we can avoid sickness and things like that. These are the kinds of things the team brings to the Tour. We try to avoid injuries. In my point of view, on this team they take care of everything and that takes money. Small teams can’t do that.
In 1997 and 2000 you won stages in the Giro, and you’ve also finished well in the GC at the Giro. Do you think this is a race you are well suited for, even though you don’t do it now because you are riding in the Tour?
I would like to do it again. I think the best schedule for a rider is to do the Giro, stop and then rest well, and then do the Vuelta. You’ve got enough time for recovery and then enough time to be in good shape again for the Vuelta.
But you usually do the Tour and the Vuelta.
Yeah, because I do what the team wants me to do. But to do the Tour and then just a few weeks later do the Vuelta, it’s really complicated. At the end of the Vuelta, you’re done, completely empty.
Johan said that sometimes the Vuelta is sacrificed because it comes so late in the season.
Yeah, that’s true.
Of the races you have on your schedule, which would you most like to win?
Wow. I’m not at the end, but I’m getting close to the end of my career. I’m thirty-one. What I would like most is to finish in two or three years with a stage in the Tour and the Vuelta also, because I have stages in the Giro. I would like to have some victories in all the tours. It’s kind of complicated for me since I am getting closer to the end and I have not gotten those wins yet.
Well, you could ride as long as Eki and then you’d have a long time left to get those wins.
(Laughs) Yeah, maybe I can race eight more years!
If you could win one of the Grand Tours, which one would you choose?
Definitely the Tour.
The Tour in 2003, after stage 15 to Luz Ardiden, when Lance crashed, you were already up ahead of him correct? How did you hear about the crash?
I was right there. It happened just in front of me. I even saw the crash. So I caught him as he was trying to get back on the bike. I passed him and then waited for him. I was feeling really well myself so I made a sign to him to be calm, have confidence, that everything would be good. We were trying to come back to the group, to catch the group, and he had some problem with his pedals, and BAMMM!! We had to stop again and finally we came back to the group and I pulled for a few meters and he was back again.
When he fell that second time, off the pedals, what did you think was going on?
Well, I had kept going. I didn’t realize until a few meters later that he had to stop again. I heard something on the radio. Probably Johan told me something. So I looked back and he was a few meters behind me again.
Aye, yaye, yaye!
Then when he attacked, did you know that was it? That he was going to win?
I was pretty sure. He’d told me earlier he was feeling really well and we knew it was one of the last chances for him. Normally when Lance tries, he’s really strong. It was one of the nicest moments in the Tour, in all the four years I’d ridden the Tour for the team.
You’ve helped Lance win the Tour four times. Which time was most important or special to you?
Every one is very important. The first was very special because it was my first year on the team and I did a good job there. I will say that one of the best moments in every single Tour is to arrive in Paris, with Lance in the yellow jersey riding behind us. All the teams are riding behind us in a single line, getting to the Champs Elysees, well, that’s a great moment. Two years ago at that Tour he was not feeling as well as the others and it was a tough Tour, but everything was okay at the end. I don’t know. In every single Tour I’ve got special memories.
Does your family come to see you at the end?
Last year at the end my wife came, it’s the first time she came. And four years ago my parents were also there. Two years ago my sisters. So someone always comes.
After your riding career is over, what do you think you’ll do? You have an engineering degree, right? Do you want to teach?
Yeah, I could be one. There are also the possibilities to work in an industry as an electrical engineer. Hopefully at the end of my cycling career I will not need to work as hard as I do now, eight or ten hours a day. I would like to be able to enjoy my family.
Well, we hope you ride for a long time more; we really like watching you ride.
(BIG gracious smile) Thank you!
Last question. I am wondering where you got the name Chechu? Is it a family nickname? Does everyone call you that?
I got the name from my mom. When I was a little kid, she listened to the radio. And in Spain they have stories, novellas (soap operas). There was a guy on the story called Chechu. She liked that name. So she called me Chechu.
And everyone calls you Chechu?
And what did you buy at the electronics store the other day? (It was widely reported that with the Euro so strong, the riders were enjoying shopping in America!)
I bought a memory stick for the USB port for the computer. And also, in Spain you can’t buy the devises that plug into the radio so you can play your IPod. In Spain it isn’t allowed because you have to have a license for that, you are using frequency. So I got one of those.
It was nice meeting you, Chechu. The best of luck this year!
from Every Second Counts, Lance Armstrong, 2003
p108 (TdF 2001, to Alpe d’Huez) My team-mate Jose Luis “Chechu” Rubiera faded back to the car to pick up more water bottles, as if I needed them. Johan handed several bottles through the window to Rubiera. “There’s obviously a problem for Armstrong,” Sherwen reported. “...Armstrong is obviously drinking an awful lot of liquid today.” Johan asked Chechu how I was really doing. “Hey, he is flying,” Chechu said. “He’s just easy.”
p.109 “Don’t you think we should move to the front?” Chechu asked.
“Just wait,” I said. I added, in Spanish, “Miramos, esperamos, decideimos, atacamos.”
“Let’s see, let’s wait, let’s decide, and then attack.”
p.110 “Just a little?” Chechu asked. “Shouldn’t you move up just a little?”
“Chechu,” I said. “Miramos, esperamos, decideimos, atacamos.” p.111 “I locked onto the back of Ullrich’s bike, with Chechu next to me.
p.170 Roberto Heras and Jose Luis “Chechu” Rubiera, were young Spaniards with beautifully civilized manners, but on bicycles they climbed mountains with leg-breaking intensity. Chechu was an easy laugher, one of the more gregarious and well-loved men on the team, but he had his serious side too. He was an engineering student who brought his textbooks on the team bus. Both of these guys gave of themselves on every ride, no matter how sore or banged up they were. They never held back, or seemed to have an off day. Or a bad mood, either.
p.170-71 I taught Chechu to “raise the roof.” He was so studious that it was doubly funny when he would act silly, and it sent us all into fits when he raised the roof. “Chechu, where is the roof?” we’d ask.
p.185 (TdF 2001, Stage 11 to la Mongie) Next, Chechu and Roberto took over - and over the next few minutes they blew the Tour apart. They set such a fast pace that within minutes it crippled most of the field.
p.193 The race wasn’t over yet, but I said to Bill, “Your first priority is to get every guy back on this team.” Chechu was sure to have some other offers, but I knew he was stressing because he loved being on the team as much as we loved having him. I had a talk with him, and assured him we’d pay what it took. He said, “I’m not going anywhere.”
p.237 He sent our climbers, Chechu and Manuel Beltran, on the attack. They shot up the road, forcing other riders to chase them. It worked: the other riders were so busy chasing Triki and Chechu, they wouldn’t attack me.
p.240 (TdF, 2003, stage 15 to Luz Ardiden) Chechu had waited for me. Now he sped up and motioned frantically for me to follow him. I leaped up and hammered at the pedals.
from Significant Other, Matt Rendell, 2004
p. 20 Chechu’s diligent with his stretching routine. And he uses every last second of sleep he can get. He comes down to the table at the last possible moment, and we laugh when he arrives because he’s always last.
p.130 (TdF, 2003, stage 15 to Luz Ardiden) Just ahead of him he finds Rubiera, who lowers his hand in a gesture meaning, It’s OK, calm yourself.
p.131 Ten seconds later, on Rubiera’s wheel, Armstrong reaches the group. They pass Vinokourov, Zubeldia, Hamilton, Basso and Moreau ... Rubiera moves to the front of the group with Armstrong just behind.
Two minutes pass. Then Mayo goes again. Armstrong rides around Rubiera and accelerates.
from Inside the Postal Bus, Michael Barry, 2005
p. 21 Chechu is the most educated rider on the team. In the spring of 2004, he graduated from university with an engineering degree, an impressive accomplishment as there are few professional cyclists who have any education beyond high school. Chechu was my roommate the first time I rode the Vuelta a Espana, in 2002. He would pack textbooks to read during the bus ride to the stage start and spend the night after the stages with a textbook on his lap, pen in hand, figuring out wiring patterns on different machines. Not only did his intellect impress me, but also his work ethic and motivation to complete his schooling.
p.148 The stages usually start in the late morning or early afternoon, so riders either sleep in and have one big breakfast three hours before the race, or get up earlier and eat two smaller meals. Floyd, for example, wakes up before everybody else, often before the staff, so he is at the breakfast table drinking coffee alone while the others are still in bed. Chechu, on the other hand, is a true Spaniard and sleeps until the very last minute, which is usually when one of the staff pounds on the door to wake him up.
p. 168 Often a few friends join the U.S. Postal training ride during the rest day … Chechu invited his friend Fernando Alonso to come along. Alonso wasn’t yet the Formula 1 superstar he is today, and so the media crush he experiences today was not a factor. He was able to ride with the team for a few hours. He is a fit athlete, a cycling fan, and often trains on the bike to get ready for car races. When asked who his hero is he responded, “Miguel Indurain.”
p. 205 In 2002 when we were racing in Spain, Dave Zabriskie asked Chechu why one of the riders in the peloton had red and yellow clothing, bike, and helmet. Chechu, who is normally quiet, considerate, and soft-spoken, was offended and said, “That is the Spanish flag, bitch, and he is the national champion.”
from Lance Armstrong: tour de force, Daniel Coyle, 2005
p.15 (on rider superstition) ...his team mate Chechu Rubiera rides with a tiny (link) Virgin of Asturias dangling from his brake cable.
p.16 Rubiera might have ridden on three Tour de France – winning teams, but his mother still lights a candle at the beginning of each season, praying that he’ll come to his senses and quit.
p.152 And there was Chechu Rubiera, the son of a milk deliveryman, a rosy-cheeked picture of Spanish civility. A college-trained engineer who was married to a lawyer, Rubiera emanated an openness and sweetness that seemed almost otherworldly. At night, he sometimes wore pajamas with teddy bears on them.
from www.velonews.com, Feb 2004
Chechu says LA looking okay : U.S Postal Service rider José Luis Rubiera told the Spanish wire service EFE that Lance Armstrong is as strong as ever and that he has "no doubt" Armstrong can win a record sixth Tour de France.
"Lance is looking as strong as any of his previous years and I have no doubt he can win the sixth Tour," Rubiera said after returning to Spain following Postal's training camp in California. Rubiera said Armstrong is as fit and motivated as previous years and that Postal is particularly motivated to make history. Nicknamed "Chechu," Rubiera said the departure of Roberto Heras will give him more freedom in other races, especially the Vuelta a España.
Rubiera is set to make his season debut at the Ruta del Sol later this month.
from www.frankieandreu.com, 2001
Andreu: One surprise is how well the new Spanish-speaking riders (Heras, Peña, and Rubiera) have fit in and adjusted. I thought it would take longer but all three of them seem very comfortable with the team. They are all joking around and having fun. To go from where they came from to an American team is a big change, a big language change and everything, but they seem to be having a ball with it so that's great. All the riders get along with each other, which is an important part of having a good team. Johan and Mark, who picked out this team, made some good choices because everybody seems to be getting along fine and there doesn't seem to be anybody rubbing each other the wrong way. I think the team made improvements in four or five different areas that bring us up to a new level - in sprinting with Stéphane Barthe, in time trialing with Victor Hugo Peña, in climbing with Roberto Heras, in terms of all-around "workhorses" like Matthew White and Chechu Rubiera. So, I think they took a look at each little "department" of cycling and decided to step it up a level. I think they made great decisions.
Chechu on Lance: "Everything that I can say about him is good. He has always been super-generous with me and even gave me a prime for my behaviour at the Tour; he always asks what I think about the team and he always offers his help in both, the sporting and personal aspect. Once I told him that I had a friend of mine that had cancer and I wanted to find out where to take her and he didn't take a minute to go into action. In truth, I only have good words towards him and I feel lucky to be riding with him, because he even shares his personal plane with us when it is necessary. As a a matter of fact, if he wouldn't had been sick, I would have come to Murcia in his plane"
Chechu on Azevedo vs. Heras: "Q: Jose Azevedo has taken Roberto’s place in the team this year. What difference does that make?
A: It will be better. Jose is really a team rider, he gives 100% for the team. Roberto was great but he also had his own ambitions, so I think Jose will make us stronger.
Q: Has your role changed in the mountains?
A: Not really. I will try to ride into the mountains hard and set the pace together with Jose and Triki Beltran and then stay with Lance as long as I can."
Lance Armstrong has been taking an incredible amount of abuse this week ... He criticized the record level of poor sportsmanship directed his way, saying he'd never seen it in cycle racing before: he's constantly spit on, insulted, and threatened. Chechu Rubiera, one of Lance's Spanish team mates, said he'd never seen anything like it, either, and that the crowd insults him merely because he's a member of the US Postal team.
Always smiling, always polite, this guy even says thank you when you hand him water on a climb!!
from www.totalbike.com, 2001
RUBIERA'S FUTURE TIED TO ARMSTRONG?
Lance Armstrong won his third consecutive Tour de France with the help of two Spanish riders: Heras and Rubiera. The work done by Rubiera impressed him and he would like for the Spaniard to stay with him until he retires. He has every intention of beating the record of 5 Tour de France wins and he would like to have "Chechu" with him for that.
Last August 25, Armstrong was speaking with Tony Rominger, when the name of Chechu Rubiera came up, the American only has compliments about him. "I hope that before he talks to other teams, he talks to us. I'm very happy with Chechu and I would like for him to ride with me until I retire. If it was up to me, I would have 10 Rubieras riding with me. By the way, do you have any other Rubieras for the US Postal?", asked Lance Armstrong.
Rubiera still has one more year of his contract with the US Postal, but when Rominger heard these comments from Armstrong, he went to talk to Johan Bruyneel, director of the US Postal. "We have already closed the budget for next season, but we can talk about 2003. If Lance wants Chechu for the rest of his career, we will do it", said Bruyneel.
Until 2005? Bruyneel wasn't being evasive. The US Postal has already closed their budget for 2002. That is why they weren't able to fight for the renewal of Levi Leipheimer, who finished third at the last Vuelta a España and has left to lead Dutch team Rabobank.
There were also rumors that the Anthrax problems that the US Postal Service has been experiencing in the U.S., could have contributed to the closing of the budget, but team management has denied this. In any case, Rubiera could stay with Armstrong until his retirement. But when could that be? Rominger has his own theory. "I think that Lance will ride until 2005. It has been rumored that he could leave cycling suddenly to stay with his family, but I think that in the end, the sporting criteria will impose. As long as he can attempt to break the Tour record, he will continue to race".
from www.totalbike.com, 2001
INTERVIEWS : JOSE LUIS "CHECHU" RUBIERA
Q. You are now 28, working for an American team and with a reputation as the best domestique in the world. What is your opinion about Armstrong wanting you to race with him until he retires?
A. I think that it is one of the biggest compliments that one can receive, because it comes from a champion of the quality of Indurain, Merckx or Hinault. For me it is a compliment to be able to make history together with Armstrong at the Tour.
Q. Has Armstrong told you this personally?
A. At the Tour he told me that he was happy with my work, but it was Rominger, whom he told that he wanted me to race next to him the rest of his career. He also asked him: "Do you have more Rubieras for the US Postal?"
Q. He also said that he would like to have ten Rubieras.
A. I didn't know that, but once he commented that he wanted three Rubieras and three Hincapies.
Q. Do you worry about being labelled a domestique?
A. No. I can't win the Tour, so it is an honor to help Lance. Plus the calendar has options for everyone.
Q. Lance gives the image of a cold person and a bitter character. How do you see him from the inside?
A. I feel badly that he is seen that way, because I have the good luck of being with him on a day-to-day basis and I know that it is entirely the opposite. At the hotel, he always is one of the funniest, a good character, but the people have stayed with the image of the bodyguards. He does that to separate himself a bit from the media frenzy, but in reality he is a normal person and a good guy.
Q. What is the thing about Lance that has called your attention the most?
A. I will say his capacity to deal with tough training. That is his secret.
Q. And the most special moment that you have lived in racing? A. In the stage to Alpe d´Huez, many thought that Lance was having a bad day. Heras and I stayed with him. We wanted to pull, but he told us to remain calm, that he was going well. That cold blood stayed with me.
Q. Then came your work at the start of Alpe d´Huez, almost a sprint, which dropped everyone.
A. Lance told me to go all out. They were only 500 meters, but I must have done them very strongly, because when I stopped, only Ullrich and Kivilev were left.
Q. Is it true that when the long breakaway that placed Francois Simon in the yellow, Armstrong calmed the team?
A. Yes. The day of the break, I asked him if we should pull and he told me: "be calm in the mountains you are going to see a show".
Q. Is it true that you help him with Spanish and he helps you teaching you English?
A. Yes, he wants to learn Spanish and we correct each other.