José-Enrique Cima is an ex-cyclist and a respected cycling journalist in Asturias. He writes for the Asturian daily newspaper, la Neuva España.
José-Enrique rode professionally in the 1970s. He had 27 wins in his career, including two stages at the Vuelta a España in 1978 when he rode with Spanish team, Kas-Campagnolo.
Chechu told us that señor Cima was instrumental in getting his first professional contract so we asked him about young Chechu Rubiera.
When did you first encounter Chechu as a young cyclist? And what was your professional opinion of him then?
After he became a professional, he was a cyclist of great promise thanks to his serious work and selflessness.
He could have been one of the best cyclists, a champion, but he is very honorable and he doesn’t like to indulge in the bad temper of a “matador,” if that means deceiving his rivals or teammates. This last quality made him, without a doubt, an exemplary gregario for great champions, especially for Lance Armstrong.
We understand that you helped him on the journey to his first team. Can you tell us about that.
Aside from valuing his talent, a friend we had in common, Manzanillo, asked me if I could be useful in getting him into the professional ranks. I spoke with several teams, but in particular it was Paco Giner, the head of Artiach, who respected my eye for talent and brought him up to the professionals. Logically, Chechu responded like a great cyclist and the best of men.
Do you have any special memories of Chechu in these early days, perhaps an important race?
The first stage that he won in the Giro, in which he was outstanding when he maintained an escape even though Tonkov was coming from behind, gambling for the overall and hardly gaining any time. That made an impression on the cycling world.
Chechu was a leading rider with Kelme, 1996 to 2000. How would you describe those years for him?
Those were his best years of brave and combative cycling. It was then that his rivals saw his true qualities. In fact, the ex-champion Tony Rominger phoned him to be his agent, and then Chechu was able to go out as a prestigious cyclist, paid appropriately as a rider of great promise.
What are Chechu's key qualities as a cyclist?
In his early years he was a very combative rider, always a fighter and very promising. He had his entire future in front of him, and as such deserved to win a Vuelta a España or to be on the podium. Allergies were a misfortune that interfered with his progress.
You've witnessed his entire career, what are the greatest moments for you?
The Giro d’Italias that he did, and the strength that he built up in his legs, and that he didn’t realize how much better than his rivals he could be. He was too prudent, and he was very worried about not being able to handle excessive heat. Maybe because of a bad experience he had, specifically in the Giro d’Italia.
What five words best describe Chechu Rubiera?
Courageous in the early days, a servant faithful unto death with Armstrong, a very honorable rider, needing more ambition to be a champion with many victories.
We're grateful to José-Enrique Cima for his time and generosity.