www.chechurubiera.info - an online magazine for fans of Chechu Rubiera


20-27 January
Tour Down Under

17-24 February
Tour of California

4-8 March
Vuelta a Murcia

24-28 March
Vuelta Ciclista Castilla y Leon

21-27 April
Tour of Georgia

8-15 June
Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré

2 August
Clásica de San Sebastián

8-12 August
Vuelta a Burgos

30 August-21 September
Vuelta a España



Our website team is travelling to Spain to support Chechu at the Vuelta. After Christine's adventure in GRANADA and CORDOBA, Bruno will be on the mighty Angliru in ASTURIAS and Nicky will travel to SEGOVIA and MADRID for the final stages.

Meantime, catch up with results and photos from Spain.


Clásica a los Puertos


24 AUGUST 2008

RESULT: Leipheimer 1st. Contador 2nd. Chechu finishes 43rd at 10'02".

Chechu joined team-mates Contador, Leipheimer, Muravyev, Navarro and Paulinho for a Vuelta warm-up at the Clásica a los Puertos today.

During 146km in the mountains of the Sierra de Madrid, the race took in three huge climbs, including the first category Puerto de Navacerrada.

Past winners include Pedro Delgado and Miguel Induráin.

Chechu lines up at start of los Puertos last Saturday. Photograph by Mayte




9 August

Stage 5: Areniscas de los Pinares (155km)

Another great result today for Chechu. He finished 24th at 3'47", and 16th in the general classification at 3.30".

Surely he's now proved his good physical condition, enough to secure his start at the Vuelta a España.

Next stop Granada!

8 August

Stage 4: Burgos to Aranda de Duero (162km)

Chechu finishes again with the main peloton, same time as winner Yauheni Hutarovich. Chechu is now 23rd overall, at 50".

7 August

Stage 3: Melgar de Fermanental to Burgos (149 km)

Chechu finishes again with the main peloton, 9" behind winner Koldo Fernandez De Larrea of Euskatel. Chechu remains 25th overall, at 50".

6 August

Stage 2: Belorado to Miranda de Ebro (186km)

Chechu finishes in the peloton, 103rd, same time as winner Yauheni Hutarovich. He now lies 25th overall, at 50".

It sounds like the team plan today was for Vaitkus to go for the win. And he almost made it, finishing 3rd.

I'm afraid news of Chechu from Burgos is nada. Zero. So I've been scouring for photos instead.

There's a selection on PHOTO-FINISH.COM with a couple of tiny glimpses of Chechu. Good to know the sun is shining though!

Talking of photos. As well as the usual podium gallery, the RACE WEBSITE has driven through each stage, taking photographs at key points en route. Through villages and towns, and on the open road, there's mile after mile after mile of tarmac. Hard to imagine what that must really be like, day after day. (Nicky)

5 August

Stage 1: Median de Pomar to Villarcayo (150km)

Chechu's final race before the Vuelta a España began today with a challenging first stage from Medina de Pomar to Villarcayo.

The peloton raced for 150km, taking in four 3rd category climbs, including three ascents of the Alto de Bocas.

With attacks coming from the start, Chechu and team-mate Koen de Kort joined a group of 31 riders, which finally broke away from the peloton, building a time gap of 7 minutes with 50km to go.

Two breaks of three riders jumped off the front this group, with winner Andrei Kunitski (Acqua & Sapone), riding hard on the final descent for a solo victory.

Chechu finished at 50", the peloton following at 2'36".


8 to 15 JUNE 2008

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana


15 June

Stage 7: Saint-Jean-de Maurienne to Grenoble (128km)

I smiled when I saw Chechu's result today. Second last, with Benjamin Noval taking the lantern rouge. He and his mate have come last before this season, on the final stage of Castilla y Leon in March. We were in Asturias, and I asked him a couple of days later, how it had finished.

He threw up his hands and laughed. "Agh! We were last." No matter, his job was done. And so it was today.

Valverde was ready to defend today, but no serious challenges came. He takes both yellow and green jerseys back to Murcia. He was strong all week, and must now be a favourite for the Tour.

Once again, the landscape provided a breathtaking backdrop for the race. Grenoble is a ski resort, and in summer, when we were there, it felt ... well, out of season.

But we were there for the mountains and they are huge (at least, to this Scot). Come to think of it, we probably walked on one of race roads today. Coming down off the mountains, you follow switchback roads, down through forest, for miles and miles. It seems the road will never end.

There's a wonderful tram system too, and the téléphérique", egg-shaped cable cars which take you to the forgettable Bastille. I think I said bon soir to someone on the way there. It was lunchtime. And I can't tell you about the hotel, which charged by the hour. As newly weds, we made a discreet exit.

Au revoir. Thanks for reading. (Nicky)

14 June

Stage 6: Morzine to La Toussuire (233km)

I get a call from France at 11. Chechu's in the break. I watch the ticker-tape for a while. It's a big break. 20 riders. 3 minutes ahead. Early days though. Two climbs to come. The Col de la Croix-de-Fer and La Toussiere. I email America. Chechu's in the break. It's too early there. I take the kids out. 2 hours later, we're back. There's a reply. Chechu's still in the break.

In the final climb, the break splinters and Chechu was caught by the chasing GC contenders. He finished the day 48th at 13'48 and now lies 63rd overall at 43'25".

It was an exciting finish, with attacks from Evans and Leipheimer. Evans testing his legs, Leipheimer wanting his second place back. They couldn't shake Valverde though, who played it canny. No panic. He stays in yellow, and, barring accidents, will be champion in Grenoble tomorrow.

cyclingnews.com quotes Cadel Evans. "I'm here only to compare myself to the others. My only goal at the Dauphiné was to get better and I'm getting better. I don't want to be getting too good too soon."

He didn't come here to win, but to train for the Tour de France. The Holy Grail of cycling. This is one of the most unappealing aspects of the sport. And it's always been the case. The reason why the Vuelta was moved from May to September. It's the reason why ASO are invincible.

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

13 June

Stage 5: Ville-La-Grand to Morzine (125km)

This difficult mountain stage didn't disappoint. The Col de Joux-Plane, the toughest of climbs. A thrilling descent through magnificent scenery. Mont Blanc forms a backdrop. Attacks from the GC contenders, on the climb and the descent. And the Tour favourites make a statement.

Valverde went on the attack on the Joux-Plane, testing his rivals. Evans followed and for once, took the lead in the chase. They reached the line together, Valverde gifting the Australian four seconds of bonus. Valverde stays in yellow.

Leipheimer couldn't match them, and slipped to 3rd place overall. But for a man who's just finished the Giro, he's performing well. You can't help but appreciate his effort.

Chechu lost time today, he finished 92nd at 15'54". He's now 90th overall at 30'52".

12 June

Stage 4: Vienne to Annemasse (193km)

Cyril Dessel won the stage, Frenchmen took the top three places, sacre bleu, and Valverde still looks strong and good in yellow.

Yes, I missed the race today.

So I don't know why Chechu lost thirteen minutes. It's curious. We know he has a big job tomorrow, assisting Leipheimer on the "beyond-category" Côte de Joux-Plane, where the 11.5km climb averages 10 percent. Saving himself? Perhaps.

Where's Christine now, just when it starts to get interesting and we need insider news?

At the suggestion of my 10-year-old, I've trawled the news sites to find out more (she told me to pinch someone else's report actually!). It's not something I usually do, and I was struck by the blandness of the reporting.

Race (and match) reports depend, of course, on the writer having knowledge and understanding of their sport, and affection. They also need a unique voice. So that you respond to the person behind the words. So that you believe them.

This is especially important on the internet, where you get a just few seconds to engage your reader sufficiently so they read on.

The only journo who engaged me tonight was Andrew Hood of VELONEWS. If you want the best report, check it out.

From his opening paragraph, his writing fairly romps along. He isn't quite out the saddle, but he's pedalling hard. And there's plenty of colour, he juxtaposes quotes from the main protagonists brilliantly. Pure drama. I hope the race was as compelling.

Chechu finished 88th today at 13'38". He's back to 88th overall at 15'16". Dig deep, amigo, dig deep. (Nicky)

11 June

Stage 3: Saint-Paul-en-Jarez, ITT (31km)

The real tussle for the Dauphiné Libéré began today. The best three riders in today's individual time trial - Valverde, Leipheimer and Evans - are all great climbers and the race is now heading up the Alps. One of them will win on Sunday. If he doesn't blow in the mountains, as he has done before, our money is on Valverde. How disloyal of me, but he just has that look about him.

It was a bit boring today, I'm afraid. I think even McCrossan and Smith on cycling.tv were frustrated by the tedium, bickering like schoolgirls. Their banter is tongue-in-cheek, and it can be very funny. Their "cafe conversation" reflects the race we're all watching, and today wasn't a good day. We also got a row for complaining! Pictures and sound were still breaking up today, even at 400 thingimejigs.

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

We didn't see Chechu live, he was home before the broadcast began. However, he must have flown like the wind on the rainy streets around Saint-Paul-en-Jarez, finishing 40th at 3'08".

His form this season is fantastic. He just doesn't look like a soon-to-be retired veteran. He's just so happy to be doing a job he loves. He's training hard for his main objective.

He wants to ride the Vuelta just one more time. (Nicky)

10 June

Stage 2: Bourg-Saint-Andeol to Vienne (184km)

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

The arrival of the peloton in Vienne was spectacular. It's a straight run to the finish, along a long promenade.

The sprint was fast and exciting, and not without casualties. For the second day in a row, it wasn't a true sprinter who crossed the line first. George Hincapie won with metres to spare, Hushovd simply couldn't match his pace. However, the Norwegian keeps the yellow jersey for a second day.

I promise I watched this race from 42km to go, albeit with broken pictures on cycling.tv. As the peloton chased down the breakaway through picturesque Isère though, my mind wandered to Tom Boonen and today's news that he tested positive for cocaine in an out-of-competition test.

Perhaps like no other nationality, Belgians adore cycling and Boonen is a superstar, idolised by a nation. How utterly disappointing for them that his huge talent may be excluded from the Tour. What was he thinking?

Chechu had a good day. As the peloton fractured towards the line, he avoided the crashes and stayed with the sprinters.

He finished 64th, same time as Hincapie. He now lies 58th overall at 42". (Nicky)

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

9 June

Stage 1: Avignon to Privas (194km)

Photograph by Christine Kahane

Alejandro Valverde didn't just win the sprint for the finish line in Privas. He replaced another piece of the broken jigsaw of Spanish cycling. It was an important day.

The sport of cycling has lost fans by the bucket load in Spain since 2006.

The clumsy and frustrating investigation into blood doping - you remember Operacion Puerto - was degrading for a sport steeped in history, tradition and pride. The greats of Spanish cycling, including Berrendero, Ocaña, Fuente, Delgado Indurain, challenged the best and won. The Vuelta a España is not the Tour. Yet it is epic and quite magnificent.

Valverde is one of the best. His precocious and dynamic talent has been demoralised by OP. Was he involved in blood doping in Madrid? We'll probably never know and quite frankly, I don't care. Not now. No proof has emerged, no case was made, and in a democracy, that should be enough.

So well done, Alejandro Valverde. And if Contador isn't allowed to defend his Tour title, I hope it returns to Spain with you.

On the road, the main challenge for the peloton seemed to be avoiding the bollards. And it was hot-ish, 21-25C.

Chechu was glimpsed chatting in the peloton today, looking relaxed. It was an easy ride for him. Enough climbs to stretch his legs, but nothing to worry him.

He finished in the peloton, same time as Valverde. He's now 84th overall at 42". (Nicky)

Photograph by AFP, cyclingnews.com

8 June

Prologue: Le Pontet to Avignon (5.6 km)

The Dauphiné Libéré is traditionally viewed as a curtain-raiser for the Tour de France, and the main Tour contenders are all in Avignon this week.

The short prologue, just 5.6 flat kilometres, was a first glimpse of Tour potential. And yet the today's winner won't be in Brest on 5 July. Ironic.

But not surprising. Although tired, Levi Leipheimer completed the Giro just last week and must be race fit. None of the Tour hopefuls have this advantage and will be hoping that, as Leipheimer tires during the week, they improve and gain their fitness.

cycling.tv interviewed Johan Bruyneel during the event. "Fantastic", said Anthony McCrossan to every answer. Johan has done an extraordinary job already this season, and the achievements of his team is truly admirable. Every race win is two fingers to ASO, and it must be very sweet. A Dauphiné overall would twist the knife just a little bit more.

Only 42" separated the winner from the lantern rouge today, so to say that Chechu finished 118th was a bit meaningless. He put a good time, 06'47"15, just 37" down on Leipheimer. He hasn't raced for over a month, and needs some race miles in his legs.

Photograph by Christine Kahane

Photograph by Graham Watson (tbc), Team Astana

Chechu last contested the Dauphiné Libéré in 2005, supporting Lance Armstrong. Lance finished 4th overall, Leipheimer 3rd. This year, he has another great team leader, who is competing in his last European race of the season. Although great challenges lie ahead for both men this week, let's hope they can enjoy it. (Nicky)

Photographs by Christine Kahane


21 to 27 APRIL 2008

Photograph by ALLAN CRAWFORD

27 April

Stage 7: Atlanta (100.9 km)

I'm not sure I've ever watched anything so difficult as Versus' broadcast of the final stage last night. The picture quality was appalling (unusual for an urban circuit), moto cameras bumped all over the place, and the commentary was uninspired.

Chechu finished 38th on the day, and 11th overall at 2'39". This is a great result for a "old and tired man" (his words, not mine).

Astana took the team prize ($5000, that's not much). Chechu received a name-check on the podium, and some extra champagne. This was his last competitive race in the US.

Thanks again to Team Rubiera, who waved the flag and supported Chechu one last time.

Photograph by Jonathan Devich, cyclingnews.com

26 April

Stage 6: Blairsville to Brasstown Bald (142.3km)

On the legendary climb of Brasstown Bald, Chechu joined a break away at 24 miles to go. He set a cracking pace, and rode solo at the front for a while. But his job wasn't to win today, it was to set the pace for Leipheimer. In a twist of cycling fate, unknown Kanstantin Siutsou came from nowhere and tore past the favourites in the final few metres. Levi finished third.

After Friday's disappointment in the TTT, Team Astana wanted to win on Brasstown Bald, the queen stage in Georgia. A herculean effort was made, particularly by Colom, Horner, Mizurov and Rubiera on the final climb, setting up Leipheimer for an important win. Sadly, he wasn't up to it on the day but it was exciting stuff.

Chechu finished 13th at 2'24" and now lies 11th overall, at 2'39".

Photograps by KEN CONLEY

Photograph by Angie and Jerry Kelly

Stage 5: Suwanee to Dahlonega (214.7km)

Chechu's verdict on Georgia last night,

"Today we were close to winning but we just lost for a few seconds. I am not going as well as I was going before. I think is normal since I have many days of competition so far.

"Tomorrow we have a quite hard stage and after tomorrow is the day. Levy is going quite well, and Chris and Tony Colon too, so we are ready. I hope to be well too but the point is to get the victory and for that, I think the best options are the Americans guys."

On today's long stage, Chechu finished 31st at 17" and now lies 14th overall, at 21".

Photograph by Jonathan Devich, cyclingnews.com

24 April

Stage 4: Road Atlanta Race Course, Braselton (16.1km)

The Astana train managed to keep five men together at the finish line, Horner, Leipheimer, Colom, Kemps and Rubiera. From cyclingnews.com's live commentary, the whole team was under pressure with Leipheimer pushing hard. Gaps appeared following a storming first lap.

Photograph by KEN CONLEY

The team's time at the finish was 19' 40" 79. A great effort, sadly not good enough to win. They finished 2nd behind Slipstream Chipotle. Team High Road was third.

Michael Schär did well to soldier on for a couple of days after falling badly. He's out the race now, and will be missed.

Chechu is now 10th overall, at 19".

Photograph by Doug Gravino, flickr.com

23 April

Stage 3: Washington to Gainesville, (174.1km)

Another day for a peloton content to roll along. Although the break built up a 4-minute lead, no-one was chasing. Chechu finished 32nd in the main peloton, and is now 58th at 21".

A big day tomorrow, with the return of the team time trial.

Photographs: Casey Gibson for Team Astana

22 April

Stage 2: Statesboro to Augusta (188.1km)

Result: Chechu finished with the peloton, and is now 93rd overall at 14".

Photograph by Jon Devich, cyclingnews.com

Photographs: Team Astana

21 April

Stage 1: Tybee Island to Savannah (113.3km)

Bright skies and a cool breeze. Perfect conditions for cycling. At the half-way point, a six-man break headed down the road. It was caught in the last 10km, largely due to the four Pro-Tour teams chasing hard.

Chris Horner was first across the line for Astana, wearing #2. In the absence of last year's winner, Janez Brakjovic, Chechu will be working for him and of course, Levi Leipheimer this tour.

Photograph: Team Astana

Result: Chechu finished safely at 78th in the peloton, same time as winner, Ivan Dominguez.

Word is that our flags have already hit the mark when Chechu spoke with our friend Amy earlier. See her photos and news of her first encounter on the BLOG.

Photographs by KEN CONLEY


7 to 12 APRIL 2008

Photograph : canales.diariovasco.com

12 April

Stage 6 : Orio to Aia to Orio (ITT), 20km

The sun finally shines in Orio and Alberto Contador wins again. He's impressive, and the Spanish crowds, desperate for good news in cycling, have a real superstar to cheer on and adore.

In an exciting, close race, Team Astana controlled the pace in País Vasco, and set their leader up for a win today. But with only a few seconds in hand, Contador had his work cut out, and he delivered a flawless and stylish performance, finishing 22" ahead of his enduring bridesmaid, Cadel Evans.

With his job done in five stages, Chechu didn't start today's race, instead heading home to prepare for next week's trip to Georgia, USA.

11 April

Stage 5 : Vitoria-Gasteiz to Orio, 162km

nother day of torrential rain and a crazy dash to the line for the top GC contenders. After a mass slid on the last bend, Alberto Contador and Damiano Cunego emerged from the gloom and duelled for the line. Contador came second, but what a showcase for cycling. Ciclismo en estado puro.

I wasn't surprised to see chaperoning Contador once again, and yet, how does he do it? We know that, at the start of the week, he was quite unwell and taking antibiotics for sinusitis.

Yet Chechu looked very composed on the final, toughest climb of the day, the Alto de Aia - a second category climb, with a horribly steep pitch reaching up to 26%. As others lost momentum and had to dismount, Chechu rode on to finish 56th at 8' 24".

He is currently 79th overall, at 26' 56".

Photograph : Susanne Goetze for www.cyclinginside.com

Ciclismo épico

La etapa de hoy se presentaba como una batalla. Al comienzo, los ejércitos rodeaban a sus generales. Sus rostros reflejaban la tensión que explotaría unos kilómetros más adelante. La lluvia marcaba el ritmo de las pedaladas. Las miradas se cruzaban, intentando adivinar la fuerza de los oponentes.

El campo de batalla, un pequeño puerto de 3 kilómetros. Una colina por conquistar, con unas escalofriantes rampas que llegaban al 26 por ciento. La armada del Saunier y la guardia pretoriana del "César" Cunego peleaban duro por cojer la mejor posición para el puerto. La guerra estaba a punto de comenzar, y, los guerreros kazajos, con su mariscal Bruyneel siguiendo a sus tropas desde un lugar seguro, mantenían una buena posición.

Las durísimas rampas marcaron el comienzo de la guerra. Los generales y quizás alguno de sus lugartenientes se quedaron solos en el momento clave. Cunego, Contador, Evans, Purito, Andy, Ricco. Todos presentes. Algunos tirones, llegamos al 20 por ciento. El público jaleaba como loco en la pared final. No había lugar para los débiles. Purito y Contador, los primeros, parecían los más fuertes. El resto de "cappos" se agarraban a sus ruedas. Detrás, los heridos. Algunos a pie, otros empujados, ninguno de ellos derrotados. Las caras eran poemas.

La batalla continuó en la bajada. Rios de lluvia en los que navegaban las ruedas. El protagonismo cambió de manos. Evans se lanzó a tumba abierta, y también lo probaba Purito y Andy. Contador parecía guardar los muebles, una caída podía ser la estocada final. Cuando llegabamos a meta, con Evans y Herrero en el combate final, las bicis lanzadas, los cuerpos pegados, ocurrió lo que no tenía que pasar. Choque brutal contra las vallas. Un ganador, Evans y un derrotado Herrero, el valiente soldado del equipo gallego.

Cunego y Contador, dos metros atrás, logran esquivarlos. En el sprint, Cunego vence a Contador. Veni, vidi, vinci. La imagen del día, Herrero entrando con lágrimas en sus ojos. Ciclismo en estado puro. Todo listo para mañana.

Photographs : Susanne Goetze for www.cyclinginside.com

10 April

Stage 4 : Viana to Vitoria-Gasteiz, 171km

It was a better day for Chechu. He looked strong at the front of the peloton, Team Astana controlling the break.

As cycling.tv's Brian Smith said, "When Chechu Rubiera comes to the front, things get a wee bit serious."

The weather improved today, with a few dark clouds threatening the fast descent to the finish.

Chechu finished in the peloton, same time as twice-winner, Kim Kirchen, who snatched an unfortunate victory from breakaway rider, Morris Possoni. Chechu now lies 126th overall, at 18' 32".

9 April

Stage 3 : Erandio to Viana, 195km

Another tough day for Chechu? He finished 9' 05" down, and now lies 133rd overall, at 18' 32".

It seems that Team Astana was instrumental in bringing back the 6 minute-plus break in a short time. Knowing Chechu, he will have stayed until that job was done, then come home at easy pace.

He got a sprint point (!) at Espronceda and finished with Benjamin and Yakovlev. Let's hope he's feeling better tonight.

Más de lo mismo

Lluvia, escapada y caida. Esta ha sido la tónica en las dos etapas anteriores, y no hay dos sin tres. Esta vez los aventureros fueron Morris Possoni y Paul Martens que recorrieron muchos kilómetros juntos hasta que Martens, corredor del Rabobank, se fue al suelo tras trazar recto en una curva.

A partir de ahi, con los dos hombres haciendo la guerra en solitario, la caza era una cuestión de tiempo. Nos aguardaba un puerto con escasa dureza, donde Astaná controló a la perfección al pelotón, y un descenso donde lo probó una vez más Luis León.

El sprint, picando hacia arriba, fue lo más interesante de la etapa. Luis León lanzó demasiado pronto, Herrero estaba bien colocado y "El grillo" no fue lo suficientemente rápido. Victoria para el Karpin-Galicia, que ya lo había intentado anteriormente. Parece que los corredores piensan demasiado en la crono de la última etapa. Mañana tenemos otra etapa de las denominadas "de transición".

Bruno Lopez Vizcon

8 April

Stage 2 : Legazpi to Erandio, 153km

Chechu crossed the line at 2'07", and now lies 116th at 9'24". The rain held off, and it was a sprint finish, won by High Road's Kim Kirchen.

After yesterday's win by Contador, Chechu told us last night,

"Over here, Contador is going as fast as a motorbike.

"The weather is not very good and it seems that we'll get wet during the whole race ... but we don't have a choice!"

Photograph : canales.diariovasco.com

Photograph : Susanne Goetze for www.cyclinginside.com

Photograph : canales.diariovasco.com

Astaná parece tener controlada la carrera

Bruno Lopez Vizcon escribe, Etapa de transición en la que el mal tiempo fue otra vez protagonista, algo que suponemos, nos acompañara durante toda la semana. Carreteras mojadas, peligrosas curvas y mucho mucho frío fueron las características de una etapa enfocada a los sprinters.

La escapada del día donde no faltó, como no, un Euskatel, la protagonizaron Joan Horrach, Michael Albasini, Iñigo Landaluze y José Luis Arrieta. Posteriormente, Albasini continuaría la aventura en solitario, pero el viento de cara, y el empeño de Quickstep redujeron sus opciones de victoria a cero.

Y es que el equipo de Bettini estaba muy activo, sugiriendonos que el italiano lo iba a probar. Pero antes del sprint llegarían algunas sorpresas. Primero a cargo de Popovych y Luis León, que lo probaron a pocos kilómetros de meta, y Contador tuvo que apagar el fuego. Luego una desafortunada caida de un corredor de Saunier Duval, que entró en la meta a pesar de lo espectacular de la caida.

Una vez preparado el sprint, en una recta larga y picando para arriba, el ganador fue el luxemburgés Kim Kirchen, imponiéndose a Bettini. Al final de la segunda etapa, todo sigue igual y Astaná parece tener controlada la carrera.

Photograph : cyclinginside.com, cyclingnews.com

7 April

Stage 1 : Legazpi to Legazpi, 137km

Alberto Contador wins! On a day of hard climbing, and with the rain coming down, Astana led the peloton much of the way, with Chechu taking long pulls on the front.

Chechu's chest infection seems to have taken its toll. After doing his job, he crossed the finish line 126th at 7'20".

In truth, Chechu doesn't have high expectations for himself this week, his aim is to support Contador.

He told us last night, "I am ready to start ... let's see how I feel. I don't think the answer will be good."

Photograph : canales.diariovasco.com

Photograph : cyclingnews.com

Contador: Vengo a intentar ganar. La batalla ha comenzado.

Bruno Lopez Vizcon escribe, Con la resaca del Tour de Flandes, comenzaba hoy la Vuelta al País Vasco, con un gran cartel, y un recorrido que, aunque no tan exigente como otros años, el tiempo se encargará de endurecer.

La etapa de 137 kilómetros fue un continuo sube y baja con 7 puertos, y los Purito, Evans, Ricco, Mosquera, Bettini y compañía salieron con sus ropas de invierno.

Y no fue para menos ya que el frío se veía en sus caras, y la lluvia empapó toda la carretera, haciendo de los descensos una pista de patinaje, con barro acumulado en los lados de la misma.

Así las cosas, Egoi lo probó muy pronto. El ex-Discovery estuvo valiente toda la etapa, primero acompañado por Iban Mayoz y Michael Buzzaf al que se les intentaria unir Astarloa y Bettini. "El Grillo" protagonizó la anécdota de la carrera al salirse de la carretera en un descenso, sin mayores consecuencias.

En el pelotón tiraban Lotto, Astana y Lampre. Los generales Contador, Evans y Cunego no querían ninguna sorpresa. Cazados los fugados, se preparaban para la pelea final. Las caras conocidas se asomaban a la cabeza del peloton. Y fue Mosquera el que lo probó en la subida al puerto de Descarga, con diez kilómetros que prometían ser apasionantes. Atras, los cappos no respondían.

Hasta que Alberto dijo basta, si no va nadie pues voy yo, y vaya que si fue. Tras juntarse con Mosquera y afrontar un pequeño descenso, donde se les llegó a acercar Cunego, Alberto se fue a buscar la victoria en solitario. Mosquera, un poco justo de fuerzas, hizo segundo. Bravo por el corredor del Karpin. Los importantes llegarían a 8 segundos.

La verdad es que el tren kazajo funcionó a la perfección. Con un Chechu tocado, pero que volvió a exhibirse en las peligrosas bajadas, el equipo se mostró sólido. Contador declaró que,

"Una victoria de etapa tan bonita como esta, y con un poco de épica por la lluvia, siempre gusta más. Vengo a intentar ganar. Ahora estoy contento, pero ni muchísimo menos significa que se ha ganado la Vuelta. Ahora hay que estar adelante y atentos". También nos marcó un momento clave en la etapa 5. El repecho de Aia con un 25% de desnivel. La batalla ha comenzado.


Results for later stages: coming soon!

Stage 2: Segovia to Ávila, 141.7km

Another good day for Alberto, he finished 5th behind winner Karsten Kroon.

Chechu crossed the line in 118th place and now lies 115th overall at 3'02".

Stage 1: Valsain to La Granja de San Ildefonso (ITT), 9.7km

Alberto Contador takes the short individual time trial, four seconds faster than team-mate (and TT specialist), Levi Leiphiemer.

Chechu finished 52nd at 57 seconds.

There's live coverage each day at CANALES (Spanish). Results and news also on RACE WEBSITE (Spanish) and TEAM ASTANA.

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana


7 March

Stage 4 : Alhama de Murcia to Aledo (ITT), 23.1km

Chechu is now 8th overall after in today's individual time trial, 1'19" behind new GC leader, Alejandro Valverde. He finished 22nd today, at 1'25".

6 March

Stage 3 : Puerto Lumbreras to San Pedro del Pinatar, 146km

Chechu is still lying second overall, same time as GC leader, Aitor Perez. He finished 60th in the main peloton.

5 March

Stage 2 : Calasparra to Totana, 152.5km

Chechu wins stage 2

Team Astana news release

Jose Luis “Chechu” Rubiera won the queen stage in the Tour of Murcia after a thrilling finale. With three kilometers to go, Rubiera attacked in the streets of Totana. Only two other riders, out of the front group of 12, could close the gap. In the sprint, Chechu, the veteran of Astana Cycling Team, was faster than Aitor Pérez and Vasil Kyrienka. Alberto Contador finished 7th, Antonio Colom 9th.

Photograph : www.galeriase-bici.com

It was snowing on the last climb of the day, the Alto Collado Bermejo. In those terrible conditions, five riders reached the top still 30 kilometers from the finish, with 30 seconds advantage: Alberto Contador, Stefano Garzelli, Alejando Valverde, Ricardo Serrano and Ezequiel Mosquera. In the descent, seven riders including Rubiera and Colom, were able to catch the leaders. Garzelli gave the strongest impression, but Chechu Rubiera was the cleverest rider.

“3 K from the finish was the perfect moment to attack”, said the happy Asturian rider. “Toni Colom didn’t feel strong enough to attack. Neither did I, but I tried. And it worked. More than having good legs, you have to be lucky in such situations. The legs were good of course. Already in the Tour of California, you could see that I had the good shape.”

This victory will not change Rubiera’s plans to end his cycling career at the end of this season. The ideal team mate participated in 19 big Tours (four times top ten in GC and two stage victories in Giro d’Italia), “It is super nice to stop with these feelings. It is time to do something else. The decision has been taken. Definite for sure.”

“What a day. We were so close to cancelling this stage. It was dangerous in the peloton. With a few riders, and I was one of them, we wanted to cancel the stage after 40 kilometers. We stopped riding, but after a short discussion, we went further. I don’t regret it any more. For me it is a nice victory but without Alain, Toni, Alberto, Jani, Benjamin, Sergio, Daniel and Maxim, it would have been impossible.”

Photograph : www.laverdad.es

4 March

Stage 1 : San Pedro del Pinatar to Lorca, 197.3km

Chechu finished safely within the main peloton tonight, 65th behind sprint winner, Graeme Brown.

He also won a mountain point on the first climb of the day, going third over the Alto Cola del Caballo (a 3rd category climb).

Recently returned from California, and still shaking off the jetlag, Chechu has headed south for the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia this week.

And there are a few major Spanish stars taking part in this race. Watch out for Alejandro Valverde (on home turf) and Alberto Contador. They both have a statement to make.


Photograph by KEN CONLEY

24 February

Stage 7 : Santa Clarita to Pasadena, 150 km

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

With Levi Leipheimer safely installed on the winner's podium in Pasedena, this was great and important week for new Team Astana. There was a lot to prove to the cycling bosses at home in Europe, and the team performed with determination and considerable style. Congratulations, guys.

On the day, Chechu came in 78th at 2.16", and completed a terrific tour in 38th position overall at 20'25".

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

23 February

Stage 6 : Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, 175 km

Photograph by Jonathan Devich, cyclingnews.com

An Astana press release this morning gave me a fright. The headline was "Bott's Dots Fatal for Vladimir Gusev".

"Fatal" should always be used with caution, and only when someone has died. Gusev suffered a broken collar bone, painful and unfortunate, but thankfully, mercifully not fatal.

Chechu finished 77th at 43", and now lies 33rd overall at 18'21".

22 February

Stage 5 : Solvang to Solvang (ITT), 24 km

This race really lit up in the last ten minutes, when arguably the three best time trialists in the world were out on the course.

World champion Fabian Cancellara failed to deliver, but Levi Leipheimer strong and triumphant. The margin of his victory, 29 seconds over David Miller, is a sign of his confidence and determination to retain this title.

Chechu put in a great time, finishing 44th at 3'06". He's now 38th overall, at 17'38".

He emailed us from California on Friday evening.

"I am going really well here in California and I am enjoying the race. It looks that Levy is the strongest in the race but we still have two hard days coming."

Photograph by Jonathan Devich, cyclingnews.com

21 February

Stage 4 : Seaside to San Luis Obispo, 217.8km

Wet and windy, meaning the quality of the live feed was appalling. So we gave up. Chechu finished in mid-peloton, 78th at 6'32". He now lies 39th overall at 14'32".

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

20 February

Stage 3 : Modesto to San Jose, 165.3km

"Chechu was phenomenal today. I raced with him before and I have never seen him ride so well. He did an enormous amount of work over Mt. Hamilton and then all the way down the descent and then again he pulled half way up Sierra Road until there were only five riders left by the time he was done."

So says Levi Leipheimer, Astana's new race leader.

Chechu finished a spectacular race for his team in 5th place at 19", sprinting for the line. He now lies 34th overall at 10'28". And with 12 mountain points, he's lying 6th in the mountain competition.

Photographs by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Photograph by D. Parks, Pez Cycling News

Photographs by CorVos, Pez Cycling News

Photograph by KEN CONLEY

Photograph by Cathy Mehl, Team Astana

19 February

Stage 2 : Santa Rosa to Sacramento, 187.2km

So now we know why television companies don't cover the first couple of hours of each stage. Following one guy up for three hours, let's face it, it's a bit boring. Even Chechu thinks so!

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

The glorious California weather turned nasty for the peloton today, the rain came down, the TV pictures disintegrated.

I didn't see the finish, it's about midnight here. It's too much to ask on a flat stage. Chechu finished in the bunch though, 76th behind Tom Boonen.

He is now 118th overall, at 10'16".

Photograph by Casey Gibson, VeloNews.com

18 February

Stage 1 : Sausalito to Santa Rosa, 155.8km

A curious result today. Chechu came in at 9'52", together with three Astana team-mates.

It appears Vladimir Gusev took a tumble early on in the stage. Perhaps Chechu shepherded him home.

Chechu is now 121st overall, at 10'15".

Photograph by Emory Ball, cyclingnews.com

Photograph by Dave Aldersebaes, Pez Cycling News

17 February

Prologue : Palo Alto to Stanford University, 3.4km

Chechu's individual time for the short course was 4 mins 14:47 seconds.

He finished the day 82nd, 23" behind winner, Fabian Cancellara.

Go to RACE WEBSITE for more information.

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Photograph by garettlo, flickr.com

Photograph by jaydoubleyougee, flickr.com

Photograph by jaydoubleyougee, flickr.com


22-27 January 2008

Photograph by nantiriah, flickr.com

26th January 2008. As the 2008 Tour Down Under heads to Adelaide for the final stage tomorrow (Sunday), it's the perfect time to take stock of the first ProTour race of the season and Team Astana's performance.

It's been hot and sticky in South Australia this week, and sunny. A photographer without a wide lens would be kicking themselves, the ocean panoramas have been dreamy.

The Aussies understand that a big cycling tour is a tourism event. The place is idyllic, it's been shown at its best. The cute marsupials have been rolled out, and visitors have been entertained. We want to be there too. Maybe next year.

Yet it's been hard to get involved with this Tour, the results are in so early in the morning. Part of the joy of the fan is watching the event live, and whilst that's possible, it's not likely. We've been posting results before breakfast, and it feels like a bit of a chore. It's only today that I've caught up with the videos. It's just not the same.

And what of Team Astana? In truth, they have been the invisible team. Just a few flashes of turquoise from Kemps, Joachim or De Kort. It doesn't get you an ochre jersey, nor the team classification. They've now slipped to 10th in the team comp overall.

Chechu is well placed in the GC, he lies 32nd overall. There's no chance in tomorrow's criterium round Adelaide for him to make a birthday break to take back 30 seconds.

So the "gemme's a bogey", and I just don't feel excited. Astana will fly home with race miles in their legs, new kit in their suitcase and a load of airmiles on their environmental footprint. And hooray, an early top-up on their tan.

Photograph tbc, flickr.com

For fans left at home, there have been few photographs of our new team. Local cameras are, as always, following the local heroes, and quite right too. But Astana has their own photographer there, the legendary Graham Watson, and we've seen nothing from him since stage 1, even on his own website.

Perhaps we've been spoilt in the past, but it's still disappointing. Let's hope it's not a sign of things to come.

A little word about Sean Yates, bless him. We like him, he is a legend. But Sean needs media training. We've noted this in previous diaries, and the need seems more urgent now. Lounging against a car isn't cool and laid back, it just looks sloppy. Stand up straight, darlin', and look alert! Your new press team are good, they'll help you sharpen your performance on camera.

Photograph by ash0, flickr.com


Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Stage 6 : Andre Greipel sprinted his way to another stage win, and the ochre jersey. Chechu came in with the bunch, 56th and finishes 31st overall, at 43".

Photograph by cas_ks, flickr.com

Stage 5 : Chechu came in with the first bunch today, 29th behind super sprinter, Andre Greipel. Sounds like he's feeling perky and finding a bit of form. He's now 32nd overall at 30". Just give him a climb tomorrow and the victory is his.

Stage 4 : Chechu's 94th today, same time as another Team High Road winner, and lies 71st overall at 24".

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Stage 3 : You have to wonder why Chechu has been sent to Australia. There are a handful of climbs to come but nothing he couldn't do before breakfast.

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Astana are lying second in the team competition, which as team leader, he must take some credit for. Johan Bruyneel needs a safe pair of hands to steer his new team. I know it's early in the season, but it would be nice to see him do what does best.

Chechu finished 62nd, same time as winner, Allan Davis.

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Stage 2 : Chechu finshes in the bunch again, at 104th he logs the same time as sprint winner Andre Greipel.

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Stage 1 : After 129km, it was another sprint for the line in Angaston, Chechu finished well up the bunch at 48th, same time as winner Mark Renshaw.

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Tour Down Under Classic : With all the sprint boys upfront, Chechu finishes 88th at 44" in the first race of the season and Chechu's first in Australia. Bonzer.

Photograph by Greg Johnson, cyclingnews.com

Photographs : Steve Morabito

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana

Photograph by Graham Watson, Team Astana


All text © 2006 Nicky Orr / Rebecca Bell. Web design by Modem Operandi
Masthead photo : Liz Kreutz 2007. Right column : Graham Watson.