Vuelta 2005 Presentation - Interviews
: We couldn't help but starting with reigning champion Roberto Heras
, who eyes an unprecedented fourth overall win in his home country's major cycling race, something no rider has proved able to get thus far, although he admitted that other contests are also part of his season plans. Heras said that getting his fourth victory at La Vuelta "is not an obsession, but motivates me", so he promised that the Tour of Spain will be one of his main targets for 2005, but only along with the Tour de France; he'll go for the Gold (jersey) again, the way he did in the past, but also wants to make something good in the Grande Boucle before hanging up his wheels, and perhaps the next edition of the French race might be the good one.
As for the Vuelta 2005 route, he said that, if compared to past editions, this Vuelta features "more racing against the clock, and no uphill ITT. But in the end, more or less it looks like the past ones"; adding that "in my opinion the key stages will be the one finishing up to Ordino-Arcalís, and the one into Pajares, because of the climbs that have to be tackled before the last ascent", not failing to mention the ascent to Lagos de Covadongas as another key moment of the race, and not surprisingly expressing the hope that the penultimate day's ITT may not turn out that decisive this time, although the Liberty Seguros undisputed team leader in big stage races admitted that he already got accustomed to contests whose outcome is determined in the very last minute. But even if Roberto thinks that there's plenty of ITT racing in the next Tour of Spain, he remains confident that the mountains would give him the opportunity to make up for the time he'd lose against the clock.
Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) told the press that "I can say I like the 2005 route more than the past one. The parcours is not that different from the ones we saw in recent editions, but there's a lot of uphill riding concentrated (in a short time), and this is good news for the climbers. Furthermore, I appreciate the fact that there's no TTT this time". And again "week two of the race will be extremely tough and, if there's any strenght left, the Avila stage will give (me) one last chance.I want to win to Vuelta, and will do my best to get it if my condition is good". The man from Madrid confirmed that in 2005 he'll be racing the Tour de France too.
Liberty Seguros's newcomer (or new comeback if you prefer) Joseba Beloki could (BIG could) even take part in all three GTs in the upcoming season. It's almost certain that the Basque will be at both the Tour and Giro startline, and according to Manolo Sainz, there's time for a Vuelta build-up too, after the end of those two races. The three-time TdF podium getter confessed he's not sure about his own participation in his country's #1 race, but didn't refrain from having his say on the 2005 course "I like it. It's an explosive one. The politics Vuelta organizers (usually) opted for consisted of hard and complicated routes, but this time there's fewer uphill finishes than usual. The two ITTs will play a fundamental part, and a such a legendary ascent as the Lagos de Covadonga will take its toll". Regardless of the presence of less mountain top finishes, Beloki still thinks they'll prove decisive, with stages like those finishing into Pajares and Avila that could turn out to be very dangerous. Roberto Heras will be Beloki's eventual team leader on the roads of Spain, but also the man Joseba picked as his number one favorite to take the title.
Illes Balears's third rider in front of the microphones, Alejandro Valverde, was another man spending good words for the 2005 route, and not surprisingly, as the man is not a pure climber, such that thge presence of less demanding climbs and the lack of both El Angliru and the TTT are just good news for him. But in spite of this Valverde -who thinks the Vuelta will be hectic since its early stages- is not so sure about his participation. He said that a strong start of the season, arguably including Spring Classics such as Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race and Milan-Sanremo, is part of his plans. Then he'd like to go to the Tour de France in order to gain further, useful experience. And a solid spring campaign followed by the World's number one cycling race followed by his participation in the Vuelta would be a bit too much for someone that still is a very young rider, so don't bet too much on Valverde as the next possible champion of the Tour of Spain.
Illes Balears' DS José Miguel Echevarri was one more cycling personality expressing his point of view on the next Vuelta a España. "It looks like a more reasonable race than the past one, less difficult and with more room for anyone. The ITT specialists are happy because the mountain top finishes are not that selective. I think this could be a more balanced race, whose winner should be a complete rider. As for us, we've got both Mancebo and Valverde, who can do well both on the mountains and the contrarreloj. The former will be at both the Tour de France and the Vuelta, but we haven't made any decisions concerning the team leadership yet. And besides this, we still need to know the Giro d'Italia route."
Asked about Lance Armstrong's possible participation in the Vuelta, the man said, "It would be a very good thing. He was already here in 1998, when the race was won by Olano. But he'd better prepare well, 'cause he'd find stiff opposition ".
Legendary Manolo Sáiz , team director of Liberty Seguros, had his say on the 2005 Vuelta route "It's a good one. Apparently suiting the climbers, but in the end it will turn out more appropriate for complete riders. Roberto Heras will be extra-motivated by the opportunity to get his fourth win and make history, but records are something you'd better think about at the end of the race only, and not at beginning, or it would just put additional pressure on you".
Spain's most famous and controversial team manager added that "I like this Vuelta, I think the second week could be terrible, and the six mountain top finishes can really make the difference. It's a normal thing that we don't have a TTT, you can't have it each time". Another DS asked about the possibility of Lance Armstrong racing both Tour and Vuelta, Saiz replied that it would be a great thing, and very good news for everyone wishing to compete in the Spanish race.
Euskaltel-Euskadi's DS, Julián Gorospe, thinks that the Vuelta 2005 route is a little less difficult than the parcours of the recently ended one, and unlike Heras he sees less kilometres against the clock, and more chances for the mountain goats, who remain the red hot favorites to take the title, also thanks to the fact most hilly stages are concentrated in a few days only, and this will cause havoc inside the peloton. Gorospe tends to agree with the 2004 Vuelta winner about how decisive the Lagos de Covadonga and Pajares stage could be, and also fears the damage the wind could make in apparently easy stages.The Basque manager said that, all things considered, he likes the route, although admitted that his team's, and notably Iban Mayo's, main objective of the season will not be La Vuelta but the Tour de France.
Joxean Fernández Matxin, team manager of another Spanish squad (Saunier Duval) is another member of the club thinking the 2005 Vuelta will be hard (notably due to stages like the ones into Lagos de Covadonga and Pájares, but especially the first Andorran mountain leg which, in Matxin's words, could turn out "Dantesque") but not as much as the most recent one, while in his opinion, the ITTs are not too large. Sure that any rider aiming for the overall win will have to work hard for this race, perhaps with a specific preparation for the Vuelta only; and that might be one of the reasons making him regard Alejandro Valverde as one of the favorites. As for his own squad, having the same tour of Spain as main season target, but also wishing to make the headlines anytime they can, leaders in stage races will be Catalunya's own Joaquín Rodríguez and Italy's Leonardo "The Flying Trullo" Piepoli.