Joseba Beloki (Brioches La Boulangère)
Following the Vuelta presentation, Joseba Beloki headed back to France and to
Nantes to join his new team-mates of Brioches La Boulangère. The team’s
official presentation is on the 6th of January 2004 and there will be one big
difference from 2003.
Not only will the team have new Basque riders they will also be in new
colours. For the moment the team are training on all white bicycles for the red
colours that were a commentator’s nightmare in races were they rode against
Saeco will be changed.
So new colours, and new riders. And what does Beloki make of it all? The
excellent Velo101 website caught up with
him in Nantes and asked him a few questions – please visit the site to read the
Firstly, welcome to France! How is your French coming along?
"Oh, very badly! I have not really started to learn seriously because at the
first training camp I had a few physical problems. So for the minute, French
remains difficult for me. No matter, I hope by July I will be pretty fluent,
certainly during the Tour everything will be organised."
How do you think you will learn French?
"So far I have looked at a few books, but perhaps my best help will come from
the wife of a friend. She comes from Rochelle and now lives in Vitoria. I think
her help, might be the best way to learn the language."
You could speak a few words in French ...
"Nada! Nada! I can’t say anything. I’m not going to risk saying anything.
Euh... next question!"
Let's not speak of French anymore but of France. What do you like about
"I always had a good knowledge of France, mainly through sport and I’ve
always done pretty well here. I always say that France is a country which has it
all. Each part of France has its own charms: the Riviera, Brittany, the Alps,
the Pyrenees... France has a variety of landscapes and I would like to get to
know it as a tourist when I take my retirement from cycling."
Do you think that you will come to live in France?
"No, because I am very happy where I live (in Vitoria). Unless it was
necessary I don’t think I would move."
So let us ask you about Brioches La Boulangère. What do you think of the
"I believe that it is a team who have had an important change of outlook. I
think that now they are trying to win the Tour we will see a new spirit within
the team that will develop over the next two of three years. I hope that every
thing goes well and these changes occur quickly.”
Have you already made friends with any of the riders ?
"To tell the truth, not really, because I was only with them for five days at
the first training camp. I already know certain riders a little, like Didier
Rous and Jérôme Pineau, but I think with this training camp and the next one, we
will get to know each other better. I hope to be a real team member as quickly as
What are the differences between Manolo Saiz and Jean-René Bernaudeau?
"Well, it's fair to say that Manolo Saiz was like my sporting father. He is
the person who introduced me into the world of cycling. As for Jean-Rene, I
don’t know him yet but from the little I saw of him when we were negotiating, he
is a straightforward person. Somebody who knows what he wants for his team and
in particular he has very clear ideas. And I like that a lot."
Two Spanish riders are joining you at La Boulangère. Could you tell us a
little about Gorka Beloki and Unaï Yus?
"Putting aside the fact that he is my brother, Gorka Beloki is a lad who rode
with me at the ONCE for the last two seasons. He is a rider who is used to
working hard, particularly in the first few kilometres of a race.The ONCE team
gave its riders many responsibilities and often Gorka’s role was at the start of
the races.It’s not surprising then that you would not see him at the end of the
"Unaï Yus is a rider you can trust. I have been riding with him since I was
nine years old and he has experience of riding for a foreign team. Since turning
professional he has ridden in Portugal and I think he is a very strong rider,
particularly in day races and 5 day stage races."
Next year the number one goal will be the Tour de France. What do you
think of the parcours of the Tour in 2004?
"Ah well, I think it is a very complex parcours. A parcours with many
dangers. I think the last week will be the one that causes the most damage. That
will be the time, during the last week, that all the team will have to pull
When did you realise you could win the Tour?
"Win the Tour? To this day I still don’t know whether I can win it. I will
try to. In the history of cycling very few riders have had the ability to win
the Tour, and I would like to become one of those. I would prefer to be quiet
about this. If one day, I do win the Tour then I will be able to speak about how
I won it and what happened."
This year, you gave us an unexpected spectacle...
"You want to talk about my crash?"
In fact, I was referring more to your comments before the race. For the
first time, you had said that you would attack Armstrong and you did. Do you
think that you could have beaten Lance Armstrong without the fall?
"Ah well, I don’t know. The important thing is that I always said that to
beat Armstrong you must attack him, and if you don’t attack him he will beat you
in the time trials. The problem is that if you want to attack Armstrong, you
must have the strength to do it. In previous years, I did not attack it because
I did not have this strength. But this year, I had it. I took risks. I believed
that I was better than ever. All was well. What would it have happened had I not
crashed? I do not know. No. I do not know."
Looking back, can you explain the crash?
"Well, I fell because I had a problem with the rear wheel. The weather was
very hot, the tyre was also hot. And then while slowing down, the wheel locked
and I skidded. Of course, it was not a motor bike. I am not Valentino Rossi and
Are there any after-effects from the fall?
"No. Today, all is very well. I had another operation last Tuesday which
finally removed all the pins in my arm; that's why I couldn’t make the training
camp any earlier – but I have found the mobility in my arm again. It is
phenomenal. Here (he draws a broad circle on his right thigh), I have a titanium
plate with five screws which will stay there for life. Medically, I will not
have any more any problems. It was guaranteed to me."
Next April, you will take part in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Would you like to
leave your mark on the Classics?
"Yes, I want to take part the Classics of the World cup, and in particular
Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I would like to win a Classic. You can be sure that I
would like that. But considering the principal aim of the season is the Tour and
then the Vuelta, it would be difficult to win a race before the Tour from a
physical point of view. But I want to take part in the top races."
The other objective of the season is the Vuelta. What do you think of the
"Jean-Rene Bernaudeau and I were at the presentation, in Madrid. It is a very
very very hard course but I believe that it will be decided in the time trials ,
so I think I could do very well. That motivates me to try for the Tour and the
Vuelta in the same year."
But is it possible to aim for both the Tour and the Vuelta in the same
"Yes. Some riders start the season very strong. They want to do well in
April, they want to do well in May, and they do well in the Tour. But after July
they are dead. The most important thing is to start the season slowly and arrive
at the Tour in good shape.
"2004 is very special because there are also the Olympics and the World
Championships in Vérone, which makes things very hard. At the end of the day I
think if I can reach top form by the end of June I will be able to keep it till
the end of the season."
So the news is that, Roberto Heras has replaced you at Liberty Seguros.
What do you have to say about that?
"I hope everything goes well with Liberty Seguros. I would have preferred to
stay with them, but it was not possible. Now I am riding for a new team I have
absolutely “no comment”.
Since you left Spain, the Spanish peloton has changed considerably; Illes
Balears-Banesto, Liberty Seguros, Saunier Duval... how do you see the new
"All these changes, these new sponsors, that’s great! The sport needs them.
It makes little difference if the team is new or old. The important thing is to
have teams. Banesto have found a new sponsor, Manolo is always looking for a co
sponsor, but I think that new teams are always good news for the riders.”
Vélo 101 readers voted Paolo Bettini rider of the year ahead of Lance
Armstrong and Alexandre Vinokourov. Any comment?
"Thats good. I would expect that. Paolo Bettini won the Coupe du Monde and is
the world classed number one. I send him all my félicitations."
Finally what what would you like from Santa Claus?
"My only present would be to start the Tour of France in the same form I had
this year. I would be happy with that. Then we will see what will happen."
Joseba Beloki Palmares
2nd Bicicleta Vasca
5th Stage Bicicleta Vasca/Euskal Bizikleta
1st Clásica de Alcobendas
3rd Stage Clásica de Alcobendas ITT (9.7 Kms.)
5th Stage Bicicleta Vasca/Euskal Bizikleta
1st Escalada a Montjuïc
2nd Tour de Francia
3rd General Vuelta a Asturias
3rd GP. de Karlsruhe (Alemania)
3rd General Vuelta a España
4th and 8th Stage Volta a Catalunya
1st General Volta a Catalunya
2nd General Bicicleta Vasca/Euskal Bizikleta
2nd Escalada a Montjuïc
3rd General Tour de Francia
3rd Stage Tour de Romandía
5th Stage Vuelta a Asturias
1st General Vuelta a Asturias
1st Criterium de Zaragoza
1st Memorial Jacinto González de Heredia (Vitoria-Gasteiz)
3rd General Tour de Francia
3rd Campeonato de España
4th General Dauphine Libere
4th General Volta a Catalunya
5th General Tour del Porvenir