Papá Noel arrived by bike
As a celebrity in Asturias, Chechu is always in demand to support local events and charity activities.
Yesterday, he and Carlos Barredo arrived at Cabueñes Children's Hospital in Gijón, to give gifts to the children and young people who had to stay in hospital this Christmas.
The event, which was covered by the Asturian media, was organised by the hospital to entertain the children. Chechu's mum was there, also handing out gifts. It was Carlos' first visit to the hospital, Chechu has taken part in the event in previous years.
You can see the TV news item on elcomercio.com (in Spanish).
19 December 2007
Contador’s Asturian Trio
Benjamin Noval will have the same schedule as Alberto in preparation for the Tour
José Enrique Cima writes in la Nueva España,
Alberto Contador, winner of the last Tour de France, keeps making an impression on his teammates with his pure class and the way he shows it in training.
That was the lasting impression brought away by the three Asturian riders who surrounded him in the Kazakh Astana team, just home from Javea (Alicante). The Asturian trio - Chechu Rubiera, Dani Navarro, and Benjamin Noval—praised the Madrileño both as a cyclist and as a modest person, who has not been spoiled by the triumph in the Tour de France.
Chechu Rubiera (Baldornón, 1973), a veteran of fourteen years, explains,
“Contador looked very well during this eight-day camp, where we trained hard and Alberto had barely touched the bike for five days. He has something special and a lot of class. He’s been busy with the large number of commitments and commercial appearances he’s been juggling because of being the Tour winner.
"But now he’s already focussed on training for his great challenge: the Tour."
Dani Navarro (Gijón, 1983) after three professional seasons, considers that, “ I already knew Contador at Liberty and now I’m with him at Astana. He’ll win many Tours because he’s already won one and is thought of as one of the great riders in the sport. That’s very important in cycling. In addition, he’s a fantastic person.”
Benjamin Noval (Mieres, 1979), after seven professional seasons, is now Contador’s guardian angel. “We understand each other very well. I know I’ve got to shield him from the dangers of the wind and crashes on flat stages and on complicated stages. Alberto always thanks me for it right away. We have the same race schedule, and my job is to be at his side always.”
Noval, cycling’s all terrain vehicle, adds that “Alberto wants to begin calmly, but also wants to win some races before the Tour, to give him confidence. I think that he’ll prove himself in Paris-Nice because he likes it. Before the Tour we’ll do the Volta a Cataluña and the Dauphiné Libéré. He’s under pressure, but he handles it calmly.”
As to the personal challenges each of Astana’s Asturian riders faces at the beginning of the season, Gijón’s Chechu Rubiera says, “The objective will be to do well in the Giro d’Italia and savor the experience. It’s clear that before that I’ll travel the world, starting at the Tour Down Under in Australia, soon after in the USA, and later in Kazakhstan. And at the end of the season if they put me in the Tours of Poland and Germany it will almost compensate for riding the Vuelta a Espana.”
Benjamin Noval knows for sure that, “we’’ll be in the Mallorca Challenge, we’ll later race something like the Vuelta a Comunidad Valenciana, then Paris-Nice. Facing the Tour with Klöden, Leipheimer, and Contador we’ll have three great leaders, and the main goal for the team is to arrive there in good shape. I’ll be called on to help and protect Alberto so that he’s at his best when he gets to the mountains. I must think about that alone and not go looking for personal triumphs.”
Dani Navarro explains, “I’ll start racing in Mallorca. I need to do well in the Vuelta al País Vasco and get to the difficult Giro feeling good. That race has got my hopes up, and I hope to do well. Also, I’d like to go to the Tour, but some riders have already been selected, although it’s not ruled out. Now I have Chechu Rubiera at my side, who’ll give me a lot of advice so that I get the best result I can. I’ve been with him now at training camp and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from Chechu because he was the cyclist I always admired most. We both went to the same school in Las Mestas, and when he was a cadet, he was already winning.”
14 December 2007
Rubiera tells Contador of his experiences with Armstrong
Life with Armstrong
Contador's team-mate in Astana was Lance's gregario in his last five Tours. The Asturian admits with pride and satisfaction that "those times leave a mark on you".
Chechu Rubiera was on the point of hanging up his bike, when Johan Bruyneel rescued him at the last minute for Astana. The Asturian, one of the most loyal teammates of Lance, is one rider that all teams must have, but especially if your leader is only 25 years old.
Benjamín Noval and Sergio Paulinho will continue to be Alberto's real bodyguards (on the road), but Chechu's advice will be welcome. It's not always that you have the chance to take part in Armstrong's last five Tour victories. "I'm privileged," says Chechu.
Rubiera hopes that Contador will fill the gap left by the American, but he knows comparisons are odious and he doesn't want to make them.
On the other hand, he tells (but only when asked) of the battles he shared with Armstrong.
"Weeks before the Tour, we were very nervous, but also very excited. We all had doubts about our own fitness but he didn't. We knew we could fail, but he would never fail. Those time leave a deep mark on you," he explains, with a bit of pride and satisfaction.
Luz Ardiden battle
On request, Rubiera will tell some of the finest battles he endured with the north American.
"I was thinking about Tour in 2003, maybe because it was the one in which Lance suffered most. He split up with (his wife) and he had a crash in Dauphine so he wasn't at his best at the start.
Moreover, he suffered a gastroenteritis in the first stages. On Luz Ardiden, although he had fallen at the start of the climb, he finally won (the stage). Then, he came in a team car and when he passed the bus, he made the driver stop." Lance got onto the bus to be with his teammates.
"When he got on the bus, he started to scream "I am not over, I am not over." And we all started to shout with him. At the end, he got his fifth Tour."
However, maybe the most remembered anecdote was during the 2001 Tour de France, when Armstrong faked a collapse, and Telekom took the bait. "It was that day or else the team sank," remembers Rubiera, "and in the Glandon, after climbing the Madeleine, there was only Heras, Amrstrong and me. There were still lots of kilometres ahead and it was going to be difficult to control the race, so he created a tactic that surprised everyone."
Theatre in the Glandon
For many kilometres, climbing the Glandon, Lance faked it. "He went at the botton of the group, seeming to be in trouble every time the TV crew focussed on him. Telekom started to doubt, and finally they pulled the group along, thinking he was really having a tough time.
We, Roberto and me, were laughing inside, but trying to hide it. It was a real show because in every corner, when no-one could see him, he said to us, "I'm gonna show them, I'm gonna show them".
At the summit, Armstrong was 1:59 ahead of Ullrich and 2:09 ahead of Beloki, who was third. That was the end of his third tour in a row.
"He forced Telekom to take the weight of the race, allowing us to stay with him". A real genius.
Armstrong didn't overlook any detail during the Tour. "In the bus, he was always looking at the standings and we used to joke, "You're going to learn it by heart". And that was actually true. He memorised the first sixty riders so he didn't have to ask Bruyneel for information on the race. A superior mind.
His physical qualities are best
However, what impressed Rubiera most about Lance were his physical qualities.
"The most impressive thing was not the race, it was his training. Every time I tried to follow him, I would end up exhausted. Pure class.
11 December 2007
Rubiera, Noval, and Navarro at training camp in Javea
José Enrique Cima writes in la Nueva España,
Chechu Rubiera, Benjamín Noval, and Dani Navarro, Astana’s trio of riders from Asturias, are at training camp in the town of Javea, in Spain’s Alicante region, to map out the season and train on the Mediterrean coast.
Most of the team is expected there, including Alberto Contador, winner of the last Tour de France. Other international big names, such as Klöden or North American Levi Leipheimer will not be present, but they will attend the January training camp in the USA.
The Astana team will be in Javea until the eighteenth of this month, and thanks to the good warm weather, they’ll train twice a day. But above all, Johan Bruyneel, Lance Armstrong’s manager during his seven Tours, will take time to analyse each rider’s season and plan which race each will ride.
It’s clear that Alberto Contador will do the Tour again, and will ride to win. With him will be his “guardian angel,” Benjamín Noval, who will protect him in the flat windy stages so that he can be in top form in the mountains.
What races the riders from Gijon will ride is still a question. Chechu Rubiera is thinking about the Giro in his last season. Another question is which races better suit a young climber like Dani Navarro.
2 December 2007
Chechu took to the water in the second Descenso otoñal del río Sella in Asturias at the beginning of December. Canoeists were partnered with other sports stars from Asturias in this race to promote a championship race, the Descenso Internacional del Sella.
Chechu was partnered by champion canoeist, Alberto Llera, and although they dominated the first 200 metres, cyclist Mario de Sárraga won with his Olympic canoeist, Javier Hernanz.
26 November 2007
The Gentleman of the Bicycle
José Enrique Cima writes in la Nueva España,
Back in the reign of Eddy Merckx - the best cyclist of all time - Felipe Gimondi was enormously popular in the peloton. The Belgian rider won everything, but being too ambitious earned him many enemies.
Gimondi won the Tour del Porvenir and then the Tour de France, until Merckx came along and outrode him. Gimondi was referred to as the "Gentleman". All because, apart from being wealthy and marrying a girl who was even wealthier, winning the top prize, he was generous enough to let others take the trophies. Years later Miguel Indurain did the same, and was also called "Gentleman".
With Chechu Rubiera, we have a real gentleman on the bike. He never makes an uncivil gesture, not to fans or to his teammates, something that is almost a miracle when living and riding at a professional level.
Especially when the rider from Baldornón was needed to help in tense moments so that his boss Lance Armstrong could win five of his seven Tours. At times like that, when there’s a cut throat mentality in the peloton, not having any problem or argument with any rider clearly indicates the amiability and personality of the Asturian.
Chechu is loved by his teammates because he has always tried to teach them and tries to give everything he has so that later others can help the leader.
Even his rivals admire the Gijónian, and the most evident proof is that he was appointed second riders’ representative before the UCI. He wasn’t first because, to Rubiera, being the star is not his game.
Years from now, people will remember Rubiera for his great understanding of cycling. For that he will earn prestige, like Gimondi and Indurain.
His own victories are a different matter. His two wins in the Giro and Subida al Naranco aren’t enough evidence of his true physical abilites. Rubiera could have been a winner in many races because he’s a great climber, a good time trialist, an awe-inspiring descender even in wet conditions, and very consistent. All the ingredients to be a great champ. But he lacked the killer instict to destroy his rivals or to be more ambitious.
It’s obvious that ambition isn’t in harmony with Rubiera’s best qualities: kindness, loyalty, honesty. So when all the fans, even the public in general, meet Rubiera in person, he wins even more points.
This last season was extremely disillusioning, not because he couldn’t help in another triumph in the Tour, this time with Alberto Contador, but because the American team, Discovery Channel, was about to disband.
Because of that, he rode the second part of the season with low morale. He couldn’t live out his dream of saying goodbye to his profession at 35.
Apart from that were the headache caused by lack of unity in the cycling world, and above all, the lack of cooperation of the riders who are constantly abused and treated like criminals.
So Rubiera considered that life after the bike had come a year early, and started thinking about engineering. Thanks to friends, he already had some offers outside the cycling world.
But cycling remembered The Gentleman. The major organisations claimed that he had to be a defender of cyclists’ rights, because he was very diplomatic. And they called him to be a rider again.
The first one, Alvaro Piño, said that Chechu must teach young people who follow in his path. Then from Andreu, an old friend of Armstrong in the USA, came an offer of a year in a country that Chechu loves.
He already had his suitcases packed for this new adventure, when at the last minute, his old manager, Bruyneel, reconsidered his situation and wanted to sign him as a cyclist at Astana. Bruyneel hadn’t been able to convince him to be a trusted advisor and directeur sportif in that Kazakh adventure.
Now Rubiera is happy again as The Gentleman of the Bicycle.
23 November 2007
Another season for Rubiera
cyclingnews.com reports, Instead of becoming a directeur sportif at the new Astana team managed by Johan Bruyneel, José Luis 'Chechu' Rubiera preferred to add yet another season as a professional bike rider to his already long career, according to Spanish website LNE.
The 34 year-old reportedly turned down an offer to become one of the squad's new directors before he was proposed a contract as a rider, which he accepted last week.
Rubiera, who will be racing his 14th season as a pro in 2008, got the OK from the team management to continue on the bike after it was clear that Paolo Savoldelli would change teams to Italian LPR .
Even though the Spaniard has always liked teaching and taking care of younger riders like Samuel Sánchez, Carlos Barredo or Daniel Navarro, the job of a directeur sportif seemed a little too stressful to him as it requires also putting pressure on the riders.
What's more, Rubiera did not want to end his career through the back door - he wanted a proper farewell and to fulfil his dream of racing through his 35th year.
17 November 2007
Chechu’s wheels still turning
The rider from Gijón signs a one-year contract with Astana, although his presence depends on the Pro Tour licence of the team
"I have to call Lance and thank him, because he called Johan so that he wouldn’t forget about me." The relationship that those two established in the mountains of the Tour is still alive. They haven’t forgotten each other. Lance and Chechu. The American did his bit so that Rubiera could continue one more year on the road, although he didn’t need to exert much pressure. In a short conversation, Bruyneel and Armstrong agreed. The feeling was mutual. The starting point, too. Chechu must stay on the bike.
Rubiera signed a contract with Astana - the team directed by Belgian Johan Bruyneel - to continue in pro cycling for one more season, and he said in advance that he’ll say a definitive goodbye at the end of that year. However, the confirmation of the contract is still conditional, because Astana is waiting for its Pro Tour licence. He said yesterday that "it’s a big problem because if they don't give us the licence, the team will have to fire a lot of the riders. We’re confident though, because the president of the UCI hasn’t said anything yet."
A familiar team
Although the team didn't make an official offer, there were constant rumors of the signing. There were many factors that supported it. Rubiera is a top-notch cyclist. Self-sacrificing. Very experienced. And in Astana, he will find old team-mates from Discovery, like the current Tour winner, Alberto Contador, and fellow Asturian, Benjamín Noval. The Baldornón rider was very satisfied to be able to ride for one more year, as he had intended even before Discovery Channel announced its dissolution. Indeed, he was very, very happy.
"I'm very pleased because I’m going to a familiar team where I have a great relationship with lots of the staff and the riders. That's a continuation of what I had at Discovery." In his new team he will also find Dani Navarro, another rider from Gijón.
But above them all is the figure of Johan Bruyneel. The Belgian was the directeur sportif at Discovery and will be the general manager at Astana. He knows what Chechu can give. That's the reason why the negotiations were just a formality. "I stepped back from the negotiations, but there wasn´t any problem because I've been working with Johan for a long time." There were no revelations. He has shown what he can do. The Tour summits and Lance Armstrong can testify to it. His individual victories, too.
That’s just why Chechu spoke with Bruyneel to make a sketch of what will happen next season. Chechu wants a more selective schedule, and all his wishes have been granted. "I spoke with Johan about it and told him that I wanted to ride in a big tour and in some classics," he said, adding, "I don't mind which one, because they’re all great, but I like the Giro."
The arrival of winter brought a happy ending to the dilemma he faced. Like in American movies. The difficult months are behind him, thinking about retirement. "Leaving when you don't want to is very difficult."
Now the race goes on. The wheels are still turning. And there are no obstacles. Now Chechu can finish on the path he began when he first climbed on the bike.
15 November 2007
Chechu Rubiera will race in 2008
The Gijónian doesn’t discount living and competing all season in the USA in his farewell year.
La Nueva España writes, Chechu Rubiera wanted to race one more year as a professional and next season will be in an international squad. At least his representative Tony Rominger already has some offers that he is scrutinizing to see where the man from Baldornon will race and that assure him a job in these days of crisis.
To Rubiera, who always liked adventures and this year rode China’s Tour of Qinghai Lake, it’s not out of the question to go to the North American team directed by Frankie Andreu, who was also a gregario of Armstrong, and where there are now other veteran cyclists and friends like Chris Horner, Freddy Rodriguez, and Victor Hugo Peña. He would be called on to live and compete all season in the United States because it is not a ProTour team. This would be a good farewell to cycling and another way to get to know the country that fascinates the Gijónian.
Rubiera had commented that he would like spend his last year in a Pro Tour team, without having to ride two grand tours in that season. This North American option finds him reconciled to the idea of living and enjoying cycling. In addition, this team is trying to get Rubiera as a teacher for young cyclists. We must remember that the Gijónian is famous for being a good person and for having gained the confidence of Armstrong, who won the Tour five times in their five-year collaboration.
However, Rominger, Rubiera’s agent, also values the option of entering a Pro Tour team because Rubiera has a good reputation and was a representative for the cyclists before the UCI.
Recently Alvaro Piño, his directeur sportif at Kelme, commented that Chechu Rubiera must continue another year as a professional racer to teach young people the hard job of a cyclist. In Spain, it is also said that he could be in a second-division (non-ProTour) team.
14 November 2007
La Nueva España reports that Chechu, Benjamín Noval, Santi Pérez, Carlos Barredo and Samuel Sánchez took part in a public discussion on Tuesday night in Moreda, central Asturias.
Victor Cordero, director of the Vuelta will also joined the group to discuss the mighty Vuelta climb, Alto de el Angliru.
Although widely tipped to be a stage finish in next year's Vuelta a España, Victor Cordero did not confirm the inclusion of this controversial climb. The route of the Vuelta a España 2008 is to be officially announced on 5 December 2007 in Madrid.
Local representatives, including the Mayor of Aller argued for it's inclusion, to ensure the race attracts wider media and public attention.
The cyclists disagreed.
Chechu spoke, stressing that "the Angliru is excessively hard. Mechanical support, which is very important, is impossible." He agreed, however, that there will be huge interest in the climb.
12 November 2007
Fans rally behind still-unemployed Rubiera
Following the withdrawal of the Discovery Channel team from cycling, Chechu Rubiera is still not on the 2008 roster of a ProTour team, a fact his fans, represented by checurubiera.info, hopes to change.
"Chechu once told us that he had the best fans in the world," a spokesperson for the site said on Sunday in an open letter to the cycling community. "The team which hires Chechu Rubiera in 2008 will gain not only a dedicated professional and gifted athlete, but an extraordinary group of fans around the world. From Australia, South America, Africa, Germany, France, Belgium, Great Britain and Hungary. And in the US, from California, Texas, Missouri, Massachusetts, Washington, Arizona and Kansas. Not forgetting his aficionados, Spaniards who have supported him since his first win twenty years ago."
The letter posted on the site which is run by American Rebecca Bell, Scotland-based Nicky Orr and Paris-based Christine Kahane, calls for fans to support the former Lance Armstrong lieutenant and for teams to take the rider seriously. "Chechu Rubiera is important to us, not just for his titles and trophies. We support him because he is a decent man, who since 1995, has performed his role as team leader and gregario in Artiach, Kelme, US Postal and Discovery Channel with sacrifice and loyalty, and who has represented the interests of professional riders with integrity.
"The cycling community, struggling to survive every day, can't afford to lose Chechu Rubiera. They must ensure that this outstanding career does not end here."
12 November 2007
Chechu mulls retirement
Velonews reports, José Luís "Chechu" Rubiera - who rode in six of Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de France teams - said he'll decide this week whether or not he'll continue with his career.
The veteran Spanish climber already told VeloNews during this year's Vuelta a España that he was facing difficulties finding a new contract for 2008 following the dissolution of Discovery Channel.
With job offers scarce, Rubiera said he would rather not race than to compete on a smaller team with a low salary. So far, he admits that the market is tough.
"The situation is pretty bad. It isn't so much that offers aren't coming in, it's that there are hardly any offers at all," Rubiera told EFE. "I want to continue with a strong team or I won't race anymore. It's possible that this year was my last as a professional."
Rubiera, 34, had a contract to ride with Discovery Channel in 2008, but the team folded at the end of this season after a new sponsor could not be found.
Former Discovery Channel team manger Johan Bruyneel has since come out of retirement and taken over the reins at Astana, bringing with him ex-Disco riders Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, Janez Brajkovic, Tomas Vaitkus, Sergio Paulinho and Benjamin Noval. So far, there's no place for Rubiera on the new-look Astana squad.
11 November 2007
The Gijon rider states that he has "received practically no offers"
Rubiera will decide next week if he is to give up cycling
Marca.com writes, Chechu Rubiera, Lance Armstrong’s teammate with Discovery Channel, confirmed last Friday that he will take a decision regarding his future within the coming week.
He is waiting to find out if a team, which has shown interest in him, will obtain a ProTour licence. The cyclist announced that if it receives (a licence), he would continue for one more year with the international peloton.
Rubiera, whose contract with Discovery Channel has now ended, considers "the situation to be very bad" and indicated that "it’s not that the offers are financially low, but that there are practically no offers", a reason that could lead him to end his career as a professional rider.
If he ends his career, the rider will seek employment in technical electronics engineering, which he studied, although he admits it is "very complicated for a company to hire a 34 year-old expert without any kind of experience".
Chechu Rubiera, who raced with the Artiach and Kelme teams, signed with Lance Armstrong’s US Postal team in 2001. He helped (Lance) to six of his seven Tour de France victories, where he was one of the most valuable team mates for the American, to such an extent that the team kept him on when it changed it’s name to Discovery Channel.
Rubiera took part in six Vueltas a España, as many Tours de France, and three Giros where he won two stages, as well as winning the Vuelta al Alentejo, the Subida al Naranco and, this season, a stage in the exotic Lago Qinghai Tour in China.
9 November 2007
Rubiera without a team
cyclingnews.com writes, Jose Luis 'Chechu' Rubiera is a name familiar to most cycling fans as the faithful mountain domestique who helped deliver Lance Armstrong to five of his seven Tour de France victories. Lauded by commentators for his selfless dedication to the team, Rubiera is now unexpectedly one of the last Discovery Channel riders to find a contract for 2008 after the team closed its doors at the end of the season.
"I still haven't decided anything because I don't have any offer on the table," Rubiera said in an interview published in the Spanish newspaper El Comercio and translated on his fan site, www.chechurubiera.info. "The disappearance of Discovery harmed cycling. A lot of riders are jobless. Jobs are very scarce. And salaries are not very good."
After 13 years as a professional cyclist, it's hard to believe that his career would come to such an abrupt end. "It's possible that this was my last season," Rubiera said. "Times are hard for us. Many are left without a team and the market is coming to an end."
Before giving up his personal aspirations to serve Armstrong in the mountains during the Tour de France, Rubiera was a champion in his own right. Two stage wins in the Giro d'Italia, two top tens in the Italian tour in (10th in 1997, 8th in 2000), and two in the Vuelta a España (6th in 1999, 7th in 2001) along with many high stage finishes and GC positions in other stage races.
After the retirement of Armstrong, Rubiera's role began to fade until finally, this season, he chose to skip the Tour de France in favour of his home tour, the Vuelta a España.
Now that Johan Bruyneel has taken over management of the Astana squad, he has taken several of the jobless Discovery Channel riders along with him: Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, Vladimir Gusev, Benjamin Noval, Jani Brajkovic, Thomas Vaitkus, Sergio Paulinho and even director sportif Sean Yates. However, Rubiera, despite his solid reputation and strong relationship with Bruyneel, has yet to get the call up.
Rubiera, a graduate in engineering, could easily find a career in another field if his cycling days come to an end, but he hasn't yet given up hope of finding the right situation on the right team. "I am 34. It should be a team that would allow me to select my schedule because I have many stages behind me. Maybe take part in one long and several five-day races", Rubiera explained.
The rider from Gijón indicated that he would like to stay involved in the sport regardless of what happens. "I would also like to train young kids, beginners".
8 November 2007
The Gijón rider reflects on his future. Stay in the peloton or park the bike. If there is no satisfactory offer, he can say farewell to his thirteen seasons as a professional.
el Comercio writes, Deep in the heart of Muñó. Rural surroundings. A stretch (of land) where green dominates other colours. Closely linked with the landscape. Chechu Rubiera analyses his future. Stay or park the bike. He reflects. He appraises. Thirteen seasons as a professional. Many victories. Unforgettable memories.
But Discovery Channel Cycling Team, his current team, has decided to apply the brakes. Slow down and stop. It does not want to continue its journey on two wheels. All of its riders have been left in the ditch.
The Gijón rider had one more year to go on his contract. A season which, in normal circumstances, would have been his last. But now he may have to hasten his departure. Forced by circumstances. The cycling market will decide. The offers. The indifference of the numbers.
"I still haven't decided anything because I don’t have any offer on the table," says the Baldornón rider. The disappearance of Discovery harmed cycling. A lot of riders are jobless. Jobs are very scarce. And salaries are not very good. There is no place in the sun.
“It’s possible that this was my last season. Times are hard for us. Many are left without a team and the market is coming to an end."
He has many kilometres in his legs. With great victories. Many successes. Tourmalet, Alpe d’Huez and Mortirolo adorn his career. But above all, he is the golden domestique par excellence. He has been the support wheel of Lance Armstrong. His faithful squire. The Texan won six (ed. it was 5) of his seven Tours de France thanks, to a large extent, to the work of the Gijón rider.
The Tour's hard mountain stages shaped their relationship. When the ramps replaced the plain, the Asturian appeared at the head of the pack. He wanted to accompany his leader. Not let him face the threat of Jan Ullrich alone. He had to wear down the rivals by sacrificing himself. He helped his leader until the last kilometres. There Armstrong was lethal. Without Chechu Rubiera’s work things would have been a lot different. The American has always been conscious of this. Johan Bruyneel, his sports manager with Discovery Channel, as well. At least up to now.
A good group
The restructuring of Astana has placed the Belgian at the head of the outfit. He is the Kazakh team's General Manager. He took with him a lot of people from his previous team.
“The project of Astana is completely new, and Alberto (Contador) went there, and I think also Benjamín (Noval). They will form a good group.” analyses Rubiera.
The Gijón cyclist’s faultless trajectory and his relationship with Bruyneel would have made a job for Rubiera available in Astana. It was an interesting option, although the rider admits that “it’s the fruit of speculation, because for the moment I have not been informed of anything”.
With nothing firm in view, Chechu Rubiera carries on testing the market. He analyses the present situation. His future.
“I am 34. It should be a team that would allow me to select my schedule because I have many stages behind me. Maybe take part in one long and several five-day races”, stated the cyclist.
In an interview with el Comercio, Vuelta a España manager Victor Cordero pointed out, “If Chechu Rubiera retires, he must remain linked to professional cycling as a director or something similar”.
The Gijón rider responds, “I am not aware of that because nobody has made a firm offer. I would also like to train young kids, beginners”.
The Gijónes carries on playing “he loves me, he loves me not”. (ed. we think he's pulling petals from a daisy). Calmly. In the peace of Muñó. He has nothing left to prove, (except) perhaps kill off the addiction to the bike.
Feature by Javier Barrio
30 October 2007
Conference by Rubiera, Santi Pérez, Samuel y Cordera, in Moreda
La Nueva España writes, The Moreda Cultural Centre will house the Aller Second Cycling Day event on Tuesday 13th November, from 7.30pm, in order to discuss the current state of professional cycling, and the polemic around doping and the methods to solve it.
The event will be attended Víctor Cordero, director of the Vuelta a España, and by the Gijón riders Chechu Rubiera (Discovery Channel) and Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), the Oviedo rider Samuel Sánchez (Euskatel-Euskadi), and the Grado born rider Santi Pérez (Relax-GAM).
The conference is organised by Aller City Council and the Aller Cycling Circle, whose president is Alfonso Calvo.
Before the conference, everybody will go to the summit of Coto Bello, which had been selected as the stage finish for the Vuelta a España 2008, but now has been changed to the winter resort of Fuentes de Invierto, in order to promote the Principality of Asturias.
The professional cyclists as well as the Vuelta director will be able to give their opinion on this new Aller mountain, suggested by Chechu Rubiera and Samuel Sánchez.
3 October 2007
Nowadays, people are very selfish
I have probably taken part in my last Vuelta, although some team is interested in hiring me
La Nueva España writes, Chechu Rubiera has completed thirteen seasons as a professional cyclist and participated in 17 big Tours (7 Vueltas, 6 Giros, and 6 Tours de France).
A resident of Baldornón, he hopes to get a good offer to lead his last campaign after the disappearance of his team, Discovery Channel. If not, he will carry on in life as an engineer, the inherent pressure on the professional sports manager does not really appeal to him.
Rubiera is very critical about the current situation of professional cycling and is fed up about the way cyclists are treated by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the great race organisers in an environment of the doping polemics.
Were you very affected when you heard that Discovery Channel would stop?
We heard the news in Germany and some were very upset. Others were not worried because they had signed or were on the point of signing with other teams. I had one more year of contract if there had been a sponsor, but there was none.
I don’t like to abandon, even if I am not doing well, except if I am sick, and for this reason, (in the Vuelta), I got as far as Madrid. I've also had a test done to see if I have some kind of virus.
Do you have any offers for 2008?
Some teams are interested in me, but they are waiting for the maximum time possible so that, in a few weeks, they can make bargain offers.
There are some managers who, at the moment, take advantage of the crisis in cycling to save money. Their intention is not to settle a budget, but to put more money in their own pockets. This is shameful. It’s one more negative aspect of cycling nowadays.
What are you asking for in order to carry on cycling?
A shorter calendar because I already competed in 17 grand Tours. The ideal (situation) would be to compete in one grand tour and take part in five-day races. Riding in two long races is not appropriate in this competitive sport currently. I could check it out myself, as other riders do, as when I did the Giro and the Tour or the Vuelta and the Tour in the same year. Also, I am 34 years old.
Bruyneel went to Kazakhstan to negotiate with Astana, and to take Contador and Noval with him.
That’s what I heard and I am not certain he is thinking of me. He would have explained the situation to me.
Will you remain close to cycling?
I would like to do it on a regional scale with a team, but not on an international scale and least of all, in the professional field.
You don’t see yourself as sports manager, shouting and giving orders on these roads?
I would accept it with pleasure, but not with professionals. Nothing has been decided yet and I don’t reject it either, although I would rather work for a company as an engineer.
Could you analyse the Vuelta a España and Menchov’s triumph?
(Menchov) was stronger than the others, and suspense regarding the result was minimal long before Madrid. The others competed for the other places on the podium. We had a nice competition between Sastre, Samuel and Evans. Samuel animated the race most.
What do you think of the circuit?
Good, hard, and full of emotion sometimes. Also, it lacked a selective mountain stage finish, I did not like the long Zaragoza time trial on a motorway, the people were not able to watch it. There were many transfers and in this respect, the International Cycling Association got bad information.
28 September 2007
from La Voz de Asturias
Chechu Rubiera : The possibility of racing another year is still not closed
How were you at finish of the Vuelta?
Better than I began. In the final stages, I was better. In Abantos, I enjoyed the attempt to catch the escape, to challenge for the stage. But behind us, there was a tremendous struggle for the podium, with Samuel (Sánchez) attacking. After that, options for victory were few, but the sense of enjoying cycling inspires me enough.
From outside, the race was not well liked. And from inside?
It was very hard. Some routes were not hard enough to make a difference but in themselves, they were leg-breaking and selective. Perhaps for the spectator, with small differences between the best (riders), it was not spectacular. The feeling within the peloton was that the race was very hard. Another thing was, later on, the strategies of the team and the strength of the riders resulted in competition.
To me, excluding the time trial in Zaragoza, I liked the routes very much.
We saw a sharp fall in the number of people who follwed the race this year. What is needed in cycling to attract the fans back?
The public asks a lot out of cyclists. I think that, in Spain, we are followers of idols and champions. Everyone enjoyed cycling when Indurain won and never attacked. Now there are those who complain because they say that there is no emotion in cycling. Now people follow F1 or motocycling despite the fact that cycling has people like Freire, Valverde and Contador. Perhaps we are missing a star like they have in other sports.
I think that in Spain, there is no enthusiasm (for cycling) like there is in Belgium or Holland, where the atmosphere during the Classics is marvellous. Or in Italy, you go to the Giro and the peole see cycling with a passion and a romanticism that does not exist here.
I think that it would be a good idea to have circuits close to the city so that they could see more of the stage as it develops. We must all sit down and find a way to save the sport which is now in doubt.
It was an important race for Asturias, on account of Samuel.
He was sensational. When it got underway, he said that he would be on the podium. To me, it seemed practically impossible but he was the strongest rider in the Vuelta in the final days. If he had been a little better in the first week, he could have been level with Menchov, disputing the general (classification). He has the potential (to win) the Worlds.
What did you feel during the Tour of Spain? Did you think that it might be your last race?
There were a few times when I thought that. But I didn't feel anything special, neither emotion nor sadness. I think that I've been very lucky racing bikes for 13 years and have had enough good years.
And if I have to leave it, I think it was more than good, sharing a good team and a good calendar.
But the possibility to race one more year as I intend is still not closed. I intend to assess the offers and if I can race one more year, I will do it, and it will be the last one.
You have offers?
I have some, but none are firm offers. There are several teams who are interested in me. But they are hoping to exhaust the time for signing up. We have many riders in the marketplace, more than seventy, and for that reason, teams want to hire the riders for as little money as possible.
Thirteen years of cycling is a lot. Your best and worst moment?
The good ones are related to the successes, personal or of team-mates. On a personal level, there were few but the victories in the Giro were very important, but I did not miss winning. Only to be with the best was sufficient. The Tours with Armstrong and the Vuelta with Roberto Heras were also very special.
The worst moments are associated with falls or bad physical moments. But the very worst was to experience the deaths of team-mates like Manuel Sanroma or Ricardo Otzoa.
On Alpe d'Huez 2001, what a drama you shared with Armstrong, didn't you?
That stage was very nice. Armstrong was very smart, because he didn't have a team to control on the mountain. It was an ideal strategy, because we did not have to carry the responsiblity of the race, as well as everything surrounding that stage, with all the world's press saying that Lance was finished, that the era of Lance was finished.
And to live these moments, to see how Lance's face showed he was in a bad shape, and then, when he looked at me laughing and said, "They'll see what they get!", this made the stage very emotional.
What is your favourite race?
The Giro, for the atmosphere at the race with the people who really understand it, know the riders and the value of all the work.
These have been the worst years for cycling. What has happened to this sport?
Doping has done a lot of damage. Unfortunately, I believe there are comparable offenses in other sports, since doping is in every sport. In cycling, we are treated like the dregs of society.
It doesn't seem normal to me that a rider who tested positive at the Tour was taken in handcuffs to the police station at the stage finish. That doesn't present a good image, it drives away sponsors and without them, cycling is finished. We do not charge an entrance (fee) and we have no other forms of income.
If your child said to you that he wanted to be a cyclist, what would you say to him?
Well, I would support him just the same if he says to me he wants to be a footballer or a builder.
Who will win the World Championships tomorrow?
Samuel Sánchez. In the team, he will not be the favourite, because the director trusts more in Freire and Valverde. But in the end, the road will put each one in his place. I think right now, Samuel is the strongest. Seeing how he finished the Vuelta, and his motivation, I believe he is the strongest. That is, if luck is on his side.
26 September 2007
Words from the veteran Chechu Rubiera who is resting after the Vuelta in his Baldornon house
This week the sceptres are distributed. For Chechu Rubiera, who participated five times in the World Championship, it’s time to reflect.
"Samuel is in a position to win the rainbow jersey"
El Comercio Digital reports, For the Gijón rider Chechu Rubiera, however, it’s time to reflect, a necessary break to contemplate his future – he already has an offer on the table to carry on one more year. It's also time to examine what will happen in the Stuttgart World Championship.
"The key strategy is not to move until the last two circuits."
It’s not just anyone who says that. It’s the Asturian rider who has the greatest number of participations in the World Championship - five.
"We (Spain) have many options with Freire, Valverde, if he is in a good shape, and above all, Samuel, who proved in the last stages of the Vuelta that he was the strongest, and is in a condition to win the rainbow jersey.
"Spain and Italy have the responsibility of controlling the race because they have the best teams. On an individual basis, there are some very good riders in France, Germany, and Russia. After a 250-kilometre race, you don’t win by chance but because you are in a perfect shape.
"Any waste of strength ahead of time will be decisive and weaken your opportunities of winning when you get to the final section of the race."
Samuel Sánchez has the desire to win
"The Euskatel rider is very competitive, and has a great desire to win, which is always good", says Rubiera. "He did not start the Vuelta in perfect shape, but it was enough to end on the podium. Now he has a high enough margin to do well in the World Championship".
Chechu Rubiera represents the image of a team man. He left Kelme for US Postal, hoping for a better future and new experiences, and became Lance Armstrong’s loyal lieutenant.
"We can talk about three favourites, but there are other high level riders who will give all they have for their team, like Barredo – another Asturian of the Paco Antequera selection - who is in a great shape. And Triki Beltran, as well as other friends, riders who would have a hard time trying to get on the podium but who will not spare efforts to help their team mates".
The most important title
Next Sunday, the riders will compete in Stuttgart for the most important title of the season.
"I don’t think this race will be much different from the five times when I participated. It will be a hard and selective race where only the toughest riders, who get to the end of the circuit and are well placed, will have options.
"We need to be well organised, in order to share the work, so that the best riders are in the front line towards the end of the race. What we will not allow is that the race escapes from our hands, and therefore every rider will have to do his share of work. Of course, if Samuel or Valverde have to lead too early, it’s logical that we will lose some options.
"The rider who wins the rainbow jersey is generally not the best rider in the world according to other scales. During last year’s World Championship, Samuel Sánchez took sharp turns like a kamikaze in order to lead Alejandro Valverdo towards a gold medal – he only got a bronze medal. Samuel showed that he would spare no effort to help others who have a chance".
A year later, circumstances are different. "Sánchez realises that he and Freire have more options", points out the Discovery Channel rider who, despite the team’s farewell, still has in mind "the idea to compete one more year if the market makes it possible."
1 September 2007
We are hundreds of riders who pay for a few cheaters : "I don’t have any special objective for the Vuelta", says the Gijón Discovery rider
El Comercio Digital reports, Chechu Rubiera is looking forward with pleasure to the Vuelta.
He stood out as a professional rider in the Giro, and in the Tour, he worked to help Lance Armstrong’s ascent to the pinnacle of cycling. He participated in fewer Vuelta races than he would have liked. But now, he is fulfilling his wish to finish the season on the Asturian and Spanish roads, a season which has led him from Mallorca to Italy and from China to Germany.
Chechu Rubiera Vigíl, the senior Asturian cyclist, looks forward with serentiy to the final Grand Tour in which he will wear the Discovery Channel jersey, since the team has announced its withdrawal from the peloton.
Are you starting the Vuelta in good shape morally and physically?
I feel well mentally but physically I haven't managed to be on top form, I have participated in too many races recently. I am just coming out of the Tour of Germany and three weeks ago. I was riding in China at a high altitude, with summits as high as 4,000 metres, and have not recovered yet.
Do you like the profile of this year’s race?
As always, it seems to combine a bit of everything. I think the winner of this race will have to be a complete rider. I've not taken part in the Vuelta for some time, this year I participated in a lot of races abroad and riding at home is a plus, without mentioning the layout which suits me.
The mountain stages come very early in the race this year.
The climb at Los Lagos is at the turn of the corner and I, personally, would have preferred it to be later on, because I don’t feel very well at the moment.
Do you think you will improve as the race goes on?
If I don’t get better, I’ll never reach Madrid.
Will you go to the start line with a concrete objective in mind?
I don’t have any pressure and have no precise objective. I hope to enjoy the race, and if I feel well, I’ll try to win a stage and see how my team mates are doing, and if they are well placed in the GC, I'll try to help them.
What do you think of the other Asturians who will be part of the peloton?
I have a good feeling, with the news that Santi Pérez will be part of the race. Samuel Sánchez is in a good condition to try for the GC and some difficult stages. Carlos Barredo and myself, I think, share the same idea to forget about the GC, try to win a stage, and help our team. Santi will also be fighting like us to win a stage because with all that happened to him lately, he is not in a condition to win the GC, although he is a good climber and will show it.
Who is the favourite for the top place on the podium in Madrid?
It’s going to be an open Vuelta, although I am thinking of Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre. But we are already in September, the season has been very full, and the state of mind of the riders in the race will be decisive.
ENTHUSIASM AND SPONSOR
The Tour de France has rarefied the atmosphere in cycling.
What happened in the Tour de France has made many people reflect. What happened there should not be repeated in the Vuelta. We hope enthusiasm returns and sponsors regain confidence.
But on the whole the fans seem to still be interested in this sport.
Yes. During the Tour and the Tour of Germany, large crowds followed the stages. Despite the fact that there are cheaters, like in all the aspects of life, people are still interested in cycling as a sport.
Have the riders been robbed of the presumption of innocence in the fight against doping?
In France, they are not keeping a cool head. It does not seem logical to me that someone who is tested positive is taken to the police station, and that riders are ejected from the Tour without proof. But we cyclists are not united enough, and do not dare to move faced with this witch hunt.
The accusatory finger has not respected your team mate Alberto Contador either.
Contador never tested positive and the French press is publishing hints against him. I won’t give examples, but there are doping cases in other sports and the media sometimes publish a short bulletin, while in cycling they fill pages based on the cases of Rasmussen and Vinokourov. We need the press to focus on the positive aspects of this sport. It’s necessary to inform, but without discrediting the purely sporting aspect of cycling.
The withdrawal of sponsors is the most alarming consequence.
Yes, and our team is a good example. In recent years, we won the Tour eight times, none of our riders have ever been tested positive, and despite this fact we cannot find in the whole world a sponsor who wants to keep the team. We had contacts in China, Russia, the United States and Europe. In the end, potential sponsors are always afraid of doping. We are about a hundred riders who have to pay for a few cheaters
THE TOUR AND THE VUELTA
Will it be necessary to redefine professional cycling?
This is the idea we all have in mind. It would be necessary to change things, to obtain more bearable race layouts with more rest days ... But we see that the Tour organisation, while preaching for cleanliness in cycling, designs at the same time very hard ... criminal stages. The best would be to leave aside all this hypocrisy. It’s us, the cyclists, who take the punishment, but behind all this there are unscrupulous doctors and organisers.
Is your criticism also directed towards the Vuelta a España organization?
No, the Vuelta has toned down the toughness of the stages.
For you its like going to the front, but the fans like to see you forcing your way up the Lagos or L’Angliru.
The Lagos stage seemed to me very nice, but the last five kilometers of l’Angliru are terrible; there are no other races in the world where you need to use three chain wheels. Nowadays cycling has become a show and the crowds ask for this kind of climb, but one could find an intermediate solution. We could force our way up L’Angliru without necessarily getting beaten up.
23 August 2007
In elcomerciodigital.com, Victor Cordero, Vuelta director, spoke about the situation for many Spanish cyclists, including Chechu and Benjamin Noval.
"Chechu and Benjamin have great expectations. I spoke with them and they are very motivated because they are without a team and want to show what they can do.
"..the disappearance of the Discovery team may put an end to Chechu’s career. In Chechu, the first thing one notices, even before his sports skills, are his human qualities. As a cyclist, the only thing that stopped him from being among the best, was a stroke of luck. Chechu Rubiera has been, and will be, very important for cycling. If, in the end, he retires, he must carry on as a racing manager or something similar."
12 August 2007
Discovery Channel and Bruyneel to leave at the end of the year
This extract is taken from an article by Asturian newspaper, la Nueva España
The Gijón rider Chechu Rubiera, currently racing in the Tour of Germany, found out about the news (about the team disbanding) "the day before the team was informed.
"Discovery Channel had warned long ago that it would not carry on, and negotiations were going on with other sponsors. One very powerful sponsor followed the Tour to see the media and public repercussions, but in the end said no. Because of the doping issue, our sport is capsizing. As far as I know, it’s the fourth negative response. Also, Johan is leaving because he does not like the atmosphere surrounding cycling now".
Nevertheless, Rubiera is not giving up, because "Discovery Channel appeared on the scene after its manager read a report discussing the fact that the best team in the world, and the best rider, Lance Armstrong, were left unemployed following the end of US Postal sponsorship. Maybe something similar will happen".
Chechu Rubiera admits that the "staff and young riders who were in Germany are naturally upset because it could shorten their career. The cycling market is in bad shape and we will see what happens with other teams. Furthermore, at the end of 2008, eleven teams are finishing with their sponsors.
The Asturian veteran cyclist is convinced that "if the Tour winner does not manage to obtain a sponsor, it’s impossible for other teams to do it". Right now cycling is considered a risky sport for investors because it generates a lot of negative publicity. In Germany, Contador is under heavy fire although he took numerous tests without any problems, he offered his DNA, and accepted to be submitted to unscheduled tests".
Concerning himself, Chechu Rubiera explains "I am 34 years old and had already decided that the next season would be my last. For the time being, I want to do a good Tour of Germany and Vuelta a España and enjoy the bike. We shall see later what happens".
Benjamin Noval explains that "it’s hard to accept that Bruyneel is retiring. Concerning the team, we already knew that it was looking for a new sponsor and it seems that no sponsor has shown up". About his good relationship with Contador, the Mieres rider says, "he is happy with my work and the way I protected him during the race. We became good friends, but I have to wait and see if the team he will join can hire me too."
12 August 2007
Team Discovery Channel stops competition at the end of the season, which leaves Rubiera and Noval without a team.
The corporate owner of the team and its sports manager stop competition, their decision is a staggering blow to cycling. For the Gijón and Mieres riders, who still had a year to go on their contract with Discovery Channel, this situation will make it difficult to carry on as professionals
elcomerciodigital.com reports, One of the best teams is stopping competition and as a result, Asturian cycling is orphaned.
Discovery Channel is abandoning cycling together with its sports director Johan Bruyneel. The Texas firm Tailwind Sports, owner of the team, surprised everybody by announcing that it is giving up the bike business. Discovery - which employs two Asturians, Chechu Rubiera and Benjamin Noval - disappears after ten years of successes.
A staggering blow to cycling in general, and to Rubiera and Noval’s aspirations. The two riders find themselves without a team for the next season.
Bill Stapleton, general manager of the team, summed up the history of the team: “We've had ten successful years, with US Postal and later Discovery Channel as sponsors. We can say that it is the greatest success of a franchise in the history of sport”.
Discovery Channel had announced in February that it would stop sponsoring the cycling team at the end of the 2007 season.
Since 1996 under the name of US Postal, and 2005 with Discovery Channel, Tailwind Sports cycling team has acquired an impressive prize list, most of all with Lance Armstrong’s seven victories in the Tour de de France, where Rubiera played a major part, and with the recent victory of Contador in the latest edition of the Tour.
Rubiera himself was reflecting about his future in cycling. He was left, like Noval, with a year to go on his contract with Discovery Channel. He is 34 years old and does not see how he could be hired by another team. He admitted to el Comercio that he is aware that the retirement of his team will probably mean his own retirement. And in anticipation of what will probably happen, he added: "I would have liked to leave cycling in a different way".
Rubiera has known the decision since last Thursday night, in Germany, where the Gijón rider is taking part in the Deutschland Tour, and said it was a staggering blow for cycling, a sport that is heading towards to a dark future.
Unibet.com is also giving up. And eleven more teams will follow the example of Discovery and Unibet.com. A very gloomy situation for a sport damaged by the mark of doping.
Unreservedly, and in an unusually hard tone, Rubiera confessed being sick and tired of seeing the riders treated like “criminals, drug addicts, and social outcasts”. Like most of his fellow riders, he rejects the criminal aspect that has been linked to this sport. “In every corporate body, there are cheats”, says Rubiera, who still does not understand why cycling has to endure such persecution.
The Asturian veteran professional cyclist, who played a major part in the last four Tour de France won by Armstrong, is somewhat pessimistic about his future and the future of cycling, but tries to get strength from wherever he can in order to end the season in the best possible way.
For the moment he is taking part in the Tour of Germany, where he is trying to “enjoy” competing. Then, it will be the Vuelta a España, a race where he will give all he has. It will possibly be his last Spanish race and even his last race as a professional rider.
30 July 2007
The insidious drip-drip of doping and the out-of-proportion police raids on the riders have transformed French cycling into a vehicle of disillusion. For this reason, Rubiera doesn't miss not participating in the Tour.
La Nueva España writes, The dark side of the Tour is destroying the passion aroused by this major event. Fewer and fewer people remain glued to their TV after lunch to watch every stage, and the idea that “they are all doped” is becoming more and more widespread.
The insidious drip-drip of doping and the out-of-proportion police raids on the riders have transformed French cycling into a vehicle of disillusion.
The current Tour does not attract new fans, but arouses negative feelings of all kinds. Even towards professionals, whose experience and maturity has been built riding the tough Alpe d’Huez and the beautiful Champs-Elysées.
Nostalgia for better times is a feeling that has also touched the Gijón rider Chechu Rubiera. A classical Tour rider, but from another era. “With all the turmoil I don’t miss not being in France”, he stated, with sadness.
Just back from the Tour of Qinghai Lake (China), the Asturian rider sees a race in its death throes, although he had already seen the first symptoms when he was a participant.
“In recent years, the riders have been treated with little respect. Calling the police to seal off a hotel is not normal”.
Doping has aroused suspicion in everything that is linked with racing. Innocent or guilty, “suspicion is a synonym for guilt” complains Rubiera.
The situation has escalated out of control and the 104-year-old race is on the edge of the abyss.
“I'm in the front line of those fighting for a clean sport, but we are athletes, not criminals”. The raid on the Astana bus underlines the words of Armstrong's ever best team-mate.
It is a criminalised sport. The only one, although there are many cases in other sports. Doping must disappear, but only in cycling? Comparisons are inappropriate but in such an extreme case they are necessary.
“The other day I read the IOC was considering leaving out cycling from the Olympic Games. It makes sense, especially taking into account that the NBA imposes as a condition for their selection that they should not take the routine tests (ed. Chechu's being ironic). We are no criminals.”
Too much controversy around a very important subject. Despite the seriousness of the facts, the Tour was sailing through an ocean of peace until Vinokourov tested positive. It’s true that the level of lack of confidence was kept in the red until it started flickering.
“I did not expect what happened to Vino because he is a wonderful rider and a great fighter” declared Discovery Channel’s Asturian rider with suprise.
Rasmussen like Pantani
After the Kazakh came the Rasmussen case. Or, better said, he went. Speculation over his absence at two (random) tests earned him his ticket back home, and confirmed Chechu Rubiera’s equation: suspicion equals guilt.
“It’s possible that he is guilty but Ramussen did not test positive, and they should have provided proof before throwing him out. It’s like the Pantani case, it was never proved he tested positive, but to this day, after his death, he is still considered as the devil.
But this year’s Tour was not only touched by plots, investigations and drugs. The Spanish participation reached a very high level of performance. Leading the way was young Alberto Contador, Chechu’s team mate.
“Despite being so young, I am surprised to see that he withstood the pressure of all these events. He is an especially talented rider”.
Sastre, Zubeldia, Valverde, Astarloza were all highly placed in the general classification, but as the Gijón rider states: “Spain only follows the leaders” and Contador is a leader, despite Rasmussen’s ejection from a Tour sick and tired of scandals.
6 JUNE 2007
Chechu Rubiera: I hoped for a better result, I did what I could
The professional Gijón rider, after finishing another Giro d'Italia, says “in the Alps I realised that I could not aspire to the general classification and joined three breakaways trying without success to win a stage”.
La Nueva España writes Chechu Rubiera finished another Giro d'Italia although this time he did not achieve his objective of winning a stage.
The Gijón rider from Discovery Channel, who will remain in Milan a few days to rest with his wife Laura, admits: “I thought I would do better although I did my utmost. At least I joined three breakaways when I saw I could not make the top ten in the general classification, but I didn't get a victory in the end. I think this Giro was of a high standard”.
It was during the famous Briançon Alp stage that Chechu Rubiera changed goals. “In the mythical Agnello and Izoard mountain passes, I could not join the best riders, so I chose to lose time and try to win later stages. It was ridiculous to fight for the general classification.
I was pleased with my performance because I did all I could. The team was weakened when Yaroslav Popovych had to abandon after two falls. My director Johan Bruyneel congratulated me because I had put all the chances on my side and had been combative.
Mind at rest
Among the three breakaways, the Bardornón born rider expains that “in the first one, it was a surprise when I found myself in the 6th place in the GC, but in fact there would only be a random chance to win.
In the other breakaway, on the way to Bergamo together with Rasmussen, there was so much competition behind that our effort ended up in nothing. And in the last one, Garzelli was very strong. In the breakaway, we could not get along.
I did not win a stage as I had wished, but I have my mind at rest because I tried hard and started the Giro well prepared”.
Chechu Rubiera considers Di Luca’s victory “a surprise because he could not maintain the leadership during three weeks, but he was the right winner. Andy Schleck, the revelation of this Giro, together with Simoni, who attacked strongly in the mountains, and Cunego put a lot of pressure on him, but Di Luca resisted. The best team in the mountains was Saunier Duval but nevertheless none of their riders were on the podium in the GC.
Polemics and transfers
What Chechu Rubiera did not like in this Giro was “so many kilometres to end with the same result and a lot of (wasted effort). We also spent a great deal of time in the team bus transferring from the hotel to the departure point or from the arrival point to the hotel, without being able to rest well enough.
On the other hand, Chechu Rubiera was happy with the press and the enthusiasm in Italy which “despite the fact that some Italian riders are involved in Operación Puerto. The people have a high opinion of the Giro and there were large crowds all along the various stages. When we ride in France or Spain, it hurts me when they always annoy us with these polemics about doping.
6 JUNE 2007
translation by Christine Kahane
elcomerciodigital.com reports "I am not as happy as I was a decade ago when I won the most important stage, and finished in the top ten in the GC."
This time Chechu Rubiera ended in the 39th place with a bitter sweet taste. “I was in the leading places in the GC but I later lost it. I tried my best, in joining several breakaways in order to win a stage, but I could not reach my goal”.
In spite of this, the Gijón rider has not lost at all his dreams. “Now, the most important thing for me is to arrive in good shape at the Vuelta a España, which includes some interesting stages in Asturias, in which I would like to do something to raise enthusiasm”.
Chechu Rubiera will spend some well deserved rest days in Milan with his wife Laura and will return home at the end of the week in order to train.
Before his important date with the ronda española, the Baldornón born rider will take part with his team in the tour of Austria and Germany, and will therefore not compete during the month of June which will help him recover.
22 MAY 2007
... However, although George didn’t win all was not lost on the day as teammate Chechu Rubiera was also in the break and moved up to sixth overall. Chechu told me that it was a very hard stage for him, due in part to some bad information given by Popo. Popo told the guys on the bus that the first climb was hard at the beginning and easier near the top. The opposite was in fact true. George attacked early thinking it would get easier at the top and as George said, “I was on the limit at the top of the climb, but was still able to put in another attack.”
Chechu told me the first 50km were extremely hard up until the point when the break established itself at 22 riders and began to get rolling. Chechu pointed at his legs last night and said, “we’ll see how they go from here” and was in very good spirits considering that he had a very bad stomach the whole day. He thinks the spicy pasta sauce the previous night caused him to be bloated the whole day. A pretty good performance considering ...
Even though Chechu has moved up on GC to sixth place Popo still remains the leader of this Team. Popo has trained specifically for the Giro and will continue to receive the full support of the Team as the GC leader unless, of course, something changes and he is no longer in contention. From the start, both Popo and Chechu have been protected riders. Chechu gaining back time on the big names has put us in a much stronger position tactically as the race heads to the mountains. Hopefully both guys continue to have good legs and if things go very well for us Chechu could find himself in the pink jersey sometime this week. Keep your fingers crossed.
See full staff report in ThePaceLine.com
11 MAY 2007
There are 24 Spaniards taking part in this year's Giro d'Italia, although Chechu is the only Asturian.
Local media, La Neuva España and elcomerciodigital.com spoke to him before he left for Sardinia, via Barcelona, on Thursday morning.
They report that Chechu is in great spirits, excited about returning to Italy, where he had his two best wins in 1997 and 2000.
This is Chechu's seventh Giro and he's in good health and is happy with his performance in Romandie last week. He hadn't expected to take part in the race (the team is suffering from many illnesses and injuries) and is content that, at crucial moments, his form was well advanced.
In his penultimate season, he's enjoying cycling more, and of course, he's keen to win a stage this year. He fears, however, that Operación Puerto may still create tension.
Without Basso as leader, and depending on how Popovych is, there may be more freedom for him to take charge.
"I would love to repeat the experience, to return and win a stage in my favourite stage race."
Chechu believes Gilberto Simoni, Paolo Savoldelli or Ricardo Ricco are contenders for the Maglia Rosa. The overall winner will be most successful in the Alps, these are key stages.
"I don't study (the stages in advance) much, I prefer to go day by day and see how I am. Once I'm racing, I'll decide what I can do. The main thing is now that I am enjoying cycling and the races more."
On Operación Puerto, Chechu fears that the ongoing events are destroying cycling.
"There is no agreement between cyclists, nor the teams. They are constantly attacking us.
I believe that, until a positive test occurs, a cyclists cannot be prevented from doing his work. That's my belief, but the opposite applies and it's necessary to prove that innocence first.
There could be as much tension at the Giro as at last year's Tour. I hope that the race will soon progress normally and that only sport is spoken about."
21 APRIL 2007
I'd have liked to live in Baldornón, but there was no suitable property to develop
The day I leave racing, I will be happy to stay on my land, caring for my small garden and some animals
La Nueva España writes, It is impossible to talk about Baldornón and not mention Chechu Rubiera. Cycle racing has made him a most distinguished person in the parish. He has toiled next to Lance Armstrong in five Tours de France, and his achievements make him one of the most important cyclists in the history of Asturias.
But for his neighbours, he's still that "extraordinary little boy", who could never get off his bike. Although he now lives Siero, Chechu maintains his attachment to the area where he was born.
Are you no longer from Baldornón, now that you live in Siero?
I live within the boundary of Gijón. In my defence, I have to say that I would have stayed in Baldornón, but there were no suitable properties for building on. So, when the possibility of renovating the house in Muño belonging to my grandparents and great-grandparents arose, I took the opportunity.
I'm not aware that people know about Baldornón because of me. Perhaps among cycling fans. Baldornón has many other charms.
You spread the word though, like an ambassador for the village?
Baldornon is a jewel which should not be exploited because we don't want it to become overcrowded. We want it to stay as it is: a paradise of nature. When I invite people from abroad they are stunned.
Have you managed to dumbfound Armstrong already?
Listen, he knows the whole world but never had the occasion during a Vuelta a España to come near enough to visit Baldornon. Still we spoke recently, when we were training with the team in the US in February, that he has an account to settle with me and with Asturias. I hope it happens.
But I have already brought Oscar Sevilla, Roberto Heras, Dani Clavero, Victor Hugo Peña. They know Baldornón, and my mother's cooking.
By the way, does the tripe prepared by your mother pass antidoping controls?
In truth, I don't like tripe. And that's a crime, because they say that my mother's tripe is the best for several kilometres around. I prefer fabada or stuffed peppers, which are also a delight. And they do not give a positive result in doping.
Can you allow yourself these indulgences during the cycling season?
Cyclists have to eat healthily and take care not to put on fat. But we do not suffer from hunger.
Is it possible that the steep slopes of Baldornón create the cyclist - one gets tired just looking at them?
Perhaps for that reason. We didn't have any means of transport, just on foot, just walking. On the bike, you always went faster. And if you have luck, as I had, to enjoy a gift and a physical power ...
You continue to train on these slopes?
Now I combine my routes. The summits are not too high but I like to train in the countryside, because there is little traffic. Also, I go on short routes so that if it becomes cold, I can return to the house in half an hour and save myself health problems.
What would you associate with Baldornón with?
With my childhood. The greatest memory is one of the friends I grew up with, and I still have.
Has Baldornón changed much since then?
Now there are many people who want a house in Baldornón, before there were none. As a kid, I preferred to be near the centre of Gijón.
What landscapes have made an impression on you?
The area of the Caxigal. When you climb the track that takes you to the Fariu, you have an impressive view of city and sometimes, in winter you can see the snow-covered Aramo. Also I like the source of the Xarande.
Of the landscapes I see when competing, the Dolomites are the most impressive to me. But we're talking of mountains three thousand metres high. And Baldornón, much smaller, is the highest point in the district.
I always long for my home, I leave it because of work, because I must compete. But the day I leave racing, I will be happy to stay here, caring for my small garden and some animals.
Is it true that this year you will watch the Tour de France at home?
I have a very full diary with the Giro, the Vuelta a España, Mallorca, Valencia, Castille y León, Tour of Germany, Tour of Georgia, Tirreno-Adriatico. So this year, it's almost certain that I will watch the Tour de France from my armchair at home. Although at mealtime, I'll go to my mother.
You say that you cycle in rural areas. Are there improvements or necessities you might seek?
It’s not because the election is coming because I don’t campaign, but I believe that the countryside is treated exceptionally well by the city council of Gijón. There is no track that is not mended. For those who enjoy mountain biking, for example, Gijón isn't a destination, because all the tracks are asphalted.
How does Chechu Rubiera write Baldornón, with "b" or "v"?
With b, all my life ... I always knew this name and now it's difficult to change.
18 APRIL 2007
Bar Rubiera : the last bar in Baldornón
La Nueva España writes that, after the recent closure of two bars in Baldornón, Casa Nene and Casa Herminia, the bar of José Luis Rubiera and Loli Vigíl survives alone. Now the only bar in the village, it is a valued place for local people to come together and socialise.
The neighbours of Baldornón say that if the parents of Chechu Rubiera close their bar, "we will have nothing" except the sports track and the bowling alley.
As well as hot soup and coffee with pingarates, many locals come to the bar looking for conversation and companionship.
With most people having cars and telephones, communication is less fluid now. Loli Vigíl (pictured)remembers, "when the only telephone in Baldornón was the one we had in the bar" and it was necessary to be available 24 hours a day "in case of emergency".
José Luis Rubiera and Loli Vigíl, who inherited the business from José's family, offer a vital service to their community. Some people think that such bars should be subsidised.
Gloria Fano and Alfonso González ran the Casa Nene for nearly forty years and retired in September. They complain of taxation and lack of support from the council. They had to do other jobs to make ends meet. Like Rubiera, Alfonso González was a milkman. "No one wants to run a bar here. Before, many people came from Gijón to eat or spend the day, but now there are few visitors."
Now all eyes are on Bar Rubiera, and how long it will continue. José Luis Rubiera is already retired so his wife will make the final decision.
15 APRIL 2007
A village without public transportation yet represented in the Giro and Tour de France
La Nueva España writes, For years, Baldornón was a totally anonymous location. Then Chechu Rubiera arrived on the scene as a cyclist and the place became part of Asturian history. There are still some people who don’t know where Baldornón is on the map, but at least its name doesn't sound double Dutch anymore.
The residents say that, before Chechu became a well-known rider, wherever they went and had to give their address, they were asked, "Baldornón? What town does it belong to?" The residents were tired of explaining, "But it’s here, it’s part of Gijón".
When the youngest child of José Luis Rubiera and Loli Vigíl won the main stage of the 1997 Giro, he put in his bag half of Spain and the whole of Asturias. And the slopes of Baldornón became famous in the cycling world.
"Nowadays, when you ask in any shop about Baldornón, you get the following answer : It’s the village of the rider, isn’t it?" as they explain in the parish.
Chechu’s record with US Postal Service (now Discovery Channel) made him the sportsman and ambassador of Baldornón. Chechu Rubiera is credited with a share of the effort that underpins the last five victories of Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France.
As local councillor Tino Venturo would say, "You don’t produce kids like this one every day".
2 MARCH 2007
Rubiera hopes for team unity
CyclingNews.com reports, Discovery Channel rider José Luis Rubiera has said that he hopes that the teams stand united and force ASO and the other race organisers to remain part of the ProTour.
Speaking in advance of today's International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) meeting in Brussels, the deputy spokesman for the Professional Riders' Association (CPA) told the Basque website Urtekaria that together, the teams have a lot of strength. However, if they don't act as a single group, it could be disastrous for the ProTour and cycling in general.
"We do not know what is going to happen," he stated. "I hope that the teams are united so that they can demand that the Tour de France and its organization observes the rules of the UCI ProTour.
"I hope that an agreement is reached because the image which we are projecting world-wide is disastrous. The fans and sponsors could even become distrustful of a world of cycling that is divided. If they sit down and negotiate then they must come away with something. The solution is that ASO complies with the rules of the UCI ProTour."
Rubiera said that the system is not perfect and work still needs to be done to develop the ProTour.
"We know that this category can be improved and the way to improve things is to propose changes and to look for solutions to the problems. It is the organizers of the races who must yield, but it is possible that the teams will not make a joint decision and some take part in the Tour, causing a fatal blow to the category [the ProTour]."
27 FEBRUARY 2007
Rubiera prefers Giro and Vuelta
Antonio J. Salmerón at cyclingnews.com reports, Discovery Channel's superdomestique 'Chechu' Rubiera may opt out of this year's Tour de France in favour of riding both the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España. "I prefer the Giro because that is cycling in its pure state," said the Spaniard to local newspaper La Hora de Asturias. "The racing style has plenty of fighting. I need to be as good as possible in both the Giro and the Vuelta."
"Not many riders choose the Vuelta, mainly because it is at the end of the season, and is a little more difficult to find the necessary motivation."
Rubiera's last big win came way back in the 2000 Giro when he claimed the mountainous stage 13 to Val Gardena whilst riding for Kelme, but the 34 year-old has no regrets about his years spent at the service of Lance Armstrong. "I am satisfied to have always fought to gain a victory and to help my teammates," he said. "Armstrong was very demanding with himself; hard training, sacrifice and yield, and we tried to fulfill those expectations that he put on us. In fact, we continue to have a good relationship."
On the inevitable subject of doping, Rubiera said: "The human body has a limit, and the accumulation of circumstances such as media pressure urges some riders to use performance enhancing drugs. From my point of view, doping is the responsibility of all us. However, if it is not possible to prove that a rider has doped, he may have many suspicions against him, but for me, that man has the right to continue competing.
17 FEBRUARY 2007
I don’t want to go to the Tour, but to enjoy the Giro and the Vuelta
Now the Tour has too much power, it will not miss me. It doesn’t know to be thankful for what cyclists have done, from Anquetil and Merckx to now
La Neuva España writes, Chechu Rubiera started his thirteenth season as a professional at the Challenge of Mallorca, his objective this year to race well, to enjoy the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana and to miss the Tour de France, his own decision.
Now 34, and in his penultimate season, Chechu analyses the schism which exists between the cyclists, the dispute between the teams and the war between UCI and the grand tour organisers.
He hopes that, in the end, everything is resolved, as cycling has touched bottom and lost prestige with the public.
How was his debut in the Challenge of Mallorca?
Good, and still with hope. But also quietly, because I know that this race doesn’t give me anything.
I want to prepare for the Giro and the Vuelta. But it was necessary to come with 4,000km of training to maintain the great pace. Cycling has changed a lot. Now it’s not worth racing with just 2,000km because it is almost impossible to keep pace. Manolo Saiz and Armstrong changed the training to ensure the team’s performance throughout the year.
Why choose the Giro and the Vuelta?
In the Giro, Basso will be leader, he is the great favourite, I will be asked to play an aggressive role, as I did for Armstrong.
In the Vuelta, I’ll have more freedom. I’d like to win a stage and get a good GC position. Also, the race goes through Asturias, I want to do well in the Lakes stages.
Why don’t you want to return to France?
They let me choose, I preferred the Giro and the Vuelta. I could go to the Tour, but I don’t want to. ... I want to race in Spain, during the short time I have left (in racing). The Tour won’t miss to me, but it is time to recognise if that race is great, then it is because of what cyclists have done for generations, from the Anquetil and Merckx to the present time. Now it has too much power, it doesn’t know to be thankful for what cyclists have done for the race.
The Discovery Channel has many "roosters" for France.
There are five riders who could lead ... but I hope that each one supports a clear leader like Basso, if they let to him race. They shouldn’t have problems with it because there is a director with experience and clear ideas to decide.
How is life for you without Armstrong?
I miss him, but life is calmer. Our world was oppressed by those following Lance, to photograph or interview him. He was a leader who knew how to create a great group of men, that was reflected on the road and results.
What did you talk about with Armstrong recently?
At the training camp, we spoke a lot of the bad situation of cycling, what is necessary to change to maintain the support and return this sport to its position. Also, that he’s never been to Asturias to settle a debt with Noval and me, because in so many years, he’s never been to our area. But I see him very involved with his Cancer Foundation.
And the sponsor is leaving?
They mentioned to us that there was a change of director in Discovery Channel, who backs other things. The big thing for 2008 is to look for another (sponsor).
Is the crisis for cycling passed?
I believe that we have touched bottom with the subject of doping. If we manage to speak only of sport this year, cycling would return to be a well-supported sport, because people have a great capacity to forget.
What do you blame for all of this?
It starts small, with the directors, organisers, then the UCI. Even the public, who want to see spectacular races, covering great distances, with much suffering and with national or regional success.
It all results in great pressure, sometimes there are temptations. It is not only the question of doping, it is also the fight between the UCI and the grand tours. The UCI ProTour has its pros and cons. It seriously affects the races and small teams, but also it offers stability for many people. It has to advance and to adjust, but not to “break the deck”.
A cyclist like Voigt has ignited fire between colleagues.
He’s our representative at the UCI and he told me that their opinion of Basso was bad. He said people should have a bad opinion of a cyclist involved in a doping case, but for me, it has not been proved that Basso committed an offence to be sanctioned. Although he’s not Armstrong, I believe that Basso is going to win the Tour. The great rival will be Ullrich.
7 FEBRUARY 2007
La Nueva España reports that Chechu Rubiera feels lucky, because he will take part in his two favourite races, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.
Chechu returned home on Sunday night from the US, very pleased with the team training camp where he found out the good news that he will take part in the two races where he has had his best results, particulary the Giro.
"I didn't request anything special to (Johan) Bruyneel, I would accept whatever they assigned to me. But I am going to challenge in the two stage races that mean most to me."
"I trained very well during the two weeks and I enjoyed it. There is also a great atmosphere in this year's team, we have big objectives ".
He added that "in the Giro, we can win with Basso, and in the Tour, we have more than one option. As well as the Italian, we have to Leipheimer and Popovych".
Rubiera recognizes that "I am lucky that they have me down for the Giro, and not the Tour, because I will arrive more rested at the Vuelta, where I want to do really well".
Chechu hopes that he remains healthy this season, and wishes "to win a stage, because for a long time I have not been doing it".
16 JANUARY 2007
Twelve seasons plus one
elcomerciodigital.com reports that Chechu Rubiera, together with Benjamín Noval, will leave next Sunday for the United States to join the Discovery Channel training camp.
Chechu Rubiera is no longer the youngster who started as a professional rider with Artiach fifteen years ago. Then he trained with another Gijon rider, Coque Uria, and together with Coello, José Manuel Garcia and Marcelino Garcia, were part of the five elite Asturian riders.
He still has a youthful look and high spirits even although 2007 marks his thirteenth season with the international peloton.
The rider from Gijón, who will turn 34 at the end of this month, still has two more seasons to go under contract with Discovery Channel and confides “in the two years left, I shall try to do my utmost and enjoy cycling, and then retire and get involved in other things”.
Chechu would like to “win a stage in one of the major races – the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España - although I would not refuse a win in a classic”.
He confesses that he hasn’t had a single victory in the last six years and admits that “only privileged riders can win because it’s extremely hard”.
Next Sunday, he will leave for California to participate, together with the Mieres rider Benjamín Noval, in the training session organized by his American team, Discovery Channel.
At this point, he still doesn’t know about his cycling programme for the coming season, established for him by his manager Johan Bruyneel. However, the cyclist from Baldornón likes “to ride the Giro and the Vuelta but if I had to choose one of the major races, I would select to participate only in the Tour.”
The Discovery team, starting its second season without Armstrong, hopes to excel like last year in the Tour, the Giro, the Vuelta “where we will try to do even better”, according to Rubiera.
However, he has a special interest in being part of Vuelta, “I’d love to compete in the Asturian stages because it’s a long time since I have competed on home ground”.
Looking back, Rubiera recalls that when he started there were only five Asturian professionals. “Now our number has more than doubled (although it’s a pity that Sergio Cuesta and Mario Sanchez are still without a team). This is due to the work of people like Manzanillo, although the Indurain era helped considerably in increasing the number of cyclists.”