- an online magazine for fans of Chechu Rubiera



29 AUGUST to 20 SEPTEMBER 2009

Stage 12: Almeria to Alto de Velefique, 174km

Chechu stopped yesterday. He got off his bike at around 160km, shortly after the final ascent of Velefique started, and got into his team car.

In 22 grand tours, we reckon he's only stopped once before. In the 1999 Giro, an attack of gastroenteritis knocked him out. He almost abandoned the 2006 Tour de France but kept going. This is a formidable record.

Chechu contacted us yesterday within a couple of hours to tell his fans why he had to stop. He feels really weak, and suspects the stomach bug from which he's been suffering in the last two days.

DS Sean Yates said on Astana's website, “He did not recover from the stages before this despite the rest day. This Vuelta is hard, there is no mercy.”

This is a barbed comment which itself shows no mercy or gratitude. We've noted before that Sean Yates doesn't bring out the best in Chechu.

Hidden in the statistic of just two GT abandons is the fact that Chechu rarely suffers in crashes or falls either. Serious injury is infrequent (he broke his left collarbone as a junior, and there was a broken bone in his hand which kept him out of the 2005 Vuelta). Chechu is a safe and canny rider. That's why he's so important in any team. He climbs pretty well too.

We miss him already.

9 September

Stage 11: Murcia to Caravaca de la Cruz, 200km

Great countryside. Beautiful day. Perfect straight roads. And a little bit boring.

We watched for forty minutes before sighting an Astana jersey. Fans of Astana must be ever patient at this Vuelta. The team is rolling along within the peloton, safe and sound. Although Zubeldia lies in ninth place overall and looking strong, Vinokourov is the lurking presence. You sense that he's waiting to do something extraordinary.

When the peloton split on the Campo de San Juan, the last climb of the day, Chechu didn't make it into the front group. He told us last night that he's not going so well in this Vuelta. He'll keep trying though and we hope he'll find his legs after tomorrow's rest day. He'll need all his strength, there are some hard stages to come this weekend.

Today Chechu finished 110th at 6'56" and now lies 75th overall at 24'18".

8 September

Stage 10: Alicante to Murcia, 162km

Chechu finished 103rd today at 10'01". He's moved to 68th overall at 27'24".

7 September

Stage 9: Alcoy to Xorret de Catí, 186km

What a fun finale to this mountain stage - well, it was from our sofa vantage point.

With 30km to go, it looked like the breakaway was safe with a gap of five minutes. The chase was on though, and as the peloton flew towards the final climb, the gap slipped away. On the Xorret de Catí, where the gradient reached a tormenting 18%, the breakaway was slowly reeled in, one by one.

Over the top and another descent. Caution was thrown to the wind with speeds of over 80km/h on the clock. The remnants of the breakaway, Gustavo César and Marco Marzano, crossed the line, just in front of the GC contenders. Valverde sprinted for 3rd place, and gathered up some extra seconds. He's in gold tonight. Evans has his angry face on.

Chechu finished 77th at 6'09". He's moved back up to 54th overall at 21'05".

6 September

Stage 8: Alzira to Alto de Aitana, 204.7km

This was a real leg-breaker stage. Four Cat.3 climbs, three Cat.2 climbs and to finish, Alto de Aitana, an hors categorie climb with an average gradient of 5.7% and max of 9%.

Chechu finished 78th at 14'28". He's now lies 60th overall at 15'30".

5 September

Stage 7: Valencia (ITT), 30km

Fabian Cancellara wins again in murky conditions. If you were expecting ancient architecture, you'd be disappointed today. There's a lot of industry and construction taking place in Spain's third largest city. The space age City of Arts and Science is magnificent, and even it looked pretty grim through the rain-spattered camera lens.

Chechu finished 43rd at 2'03". Another exceptional time, and it pushes him up the general classification to 43rd at 2'58". Let the mountains begin.

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

4 September

Stage 6: Xativa to Xativa , 176.8km

Chechu crossed the finish line 62nd at 9". He's now 73rd overall, at 1'13".

"Tomorrow is the race of truth and we shall see what the truth is." Sean Yates.

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

3 September

Stage 5: Tarragona to Vinaros, 174km

Temperatures reaching 37C and glorious sunshine led to a fairly leisurely day for the peloton. Chechu crossed the finish line in 70th place at 18". He's now 87th overall, at 1'22".

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

4 September

Message from Chechu

I am in Spain, resting after the Holland and Belgium stages. I was lucky with the crashes and I am in one piece. Yesterday was amazing, I didn't see many crashes like that one ...
My room mate is Michel Schar, nice guy. The atmosphere in the team is really nice so far. We are having fun in the hotel! It is a pity that we lost Horner. That guy has bad luck ...
I was with Christine all these days at the start. They had fun!
Today we will ride 2 hours and maybe we stop for a coffee ... And after lunch, BIG SIESTA!
Take care and saludos,

1 September

Stage 4: Venlo to Liège, 224km

Well, that wasn't much fun, was it? After a stage filled with bizarre accidents, at just under 3km to go, the peloton negotiated yet another roundabout. This time at high speed. And yes, it was wet and slippery.

If you didn't see it, you can guess the rest. Half the peloton went down, sliding into the gutters. It seems that most got up, and finished the race. But there were serious injuries, including poor Chris Horner who's just return after injury sustained during the Giro.

Chechu crossed the finish line, 111th at 4'11". Because the crash happened within 3km of the finish, the GC has been neutralised, and Chechu lies 103rd at 55".

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

31 August

Stage 3: Zutphen to Venlo, 189.7km

Chechu finished 102nd, same time as sprint winner Greg Henderson. He remains 121st overall at 55".

30 August

Stage 2: Assen to Emmen, 202km

Chechu finished 142nd at 30". He now lies 121st at 55". Contrary to media reports, Chechu didn't fall (he was probably mistaken for Jesus Hernandez who crashed twice during the race). However, he was caught behind a pile-up with 3km to go.

Today's racing was hazardous for the peloton on narrow Dutch roads. Traffic islands, roundabouts, bollards and pave all added to the sense of danger and nervousness. There are two days to go, let's hope the weather continues to be kind. It could get very scary.

Photograph © Team Astana

29 August

Stage 1: Assen to Assen ITT, 4.8km

We had a gut feeling that Chechu would do well today, definitely top 40. He's had such a positive attidude this week. He's really up for this Vuelta and, in blustery and damp conditions, Chechu put in a strong ride. He finished in 37th place, at 25" behind stage favourite, Fabian Cancellara.

Assen didn't offer the ancient wonder of Venice or the glamour of Monaco. A grey race track. A grey day. What a shame. With much of the crowd - supposedly 30,000 - some distance away from the action and cyclists seemed to be warming in hangars away from the fans, it didn't feel quite like the Tour of Spain is really underway.

Photograph ©

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