MANOLO SAIZ: "HERAS IS IN BETTER SHAPE THAN EVER AND BELOKI LOOKS BETTER EVERY DAY"
After the Liberty Seguros-Würth team spent some time in Puente Viesgo (Cantabria), Manolo Saiz decided on his 'nine' for the Tour de France Joseba Beloki, Alberto Contador, Allan Davis, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Roberto Heras, Jörg Jaksche, Luis León Sanchez, Marcos Serrano and Ángel Vicioso) and appeared optimistic about the performance of his men. The bad experience in the Dauphiné Libéré has been put behind him.
How does the team look for the Tour de France?
I sincerely believe it looks good. We have undergone a big change in the last month, but of course, when you go to a race and you do not ride well, you get a bit nervous. But the truth is that we are fine, we trained alone in Cantabria and we lack the reference of the rivals, but I believe that we will be in good shape at the start of the Tour.
What was the purpose of this meeting?
To meet up, to be together, to unify criteria and aims and to get a good feeling amongst us before starting the Tour de France.
Was it difficult to decide on the last two riders to eliminate?
It is always difficult to eliminate a rider, but in this case I thought that both Andrle and Hruska were very good in the Vuelta a España and I can’t forget that it is the next main objective.
How would you classify your team for the Tour 2005?
It is a balanced team, probably not the most powerful for the team time trial, but it will do a good Tour de France.
You have decided to take two young men, Contador and Luis León, what do you expect from them?
The idea is that they are learning and getting to know the Tour, though I would be lying if I said that I don’t have a dream to fulfil with them.
Is the objective to finish the race or will they pull out before?
I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it. If thy appear very tired I might send them home, but I am someone who believes that to get to know something well you have to finish it.
How does Roberto Heras look at the start of the Tour?
Roberto knows that he is facing one of his last opportunities of doing a good Tour and I think he is in good shape, he looks better than ever and he is very enthusiastic.
And Joseba Beloki?
He looks better every day. You must remember that he is a rider who has reached the podium three times and he will be a very important part of the team. I hope he recuperates his old level!
What do you think about the initial time trial this year?
It will greatly influence the development of the race. On the one hand, it will make the first week less dangerous, because there will be more differences, but it could also mean that we have the same leader from the first to the last day. For riders like Roberto Heras this parcours is good, because there will not be another time trial until the end and, therefore, climbers will reach the mountain with less lost time than usual. On the other hand, riders like Armstrong will have to move in a different way to what they are used to.
Who are the favourites of this edition?
Armstrong, undoubtedly, he is the only favourite. Then, way behind, Ullrich takes second place and, also much further behind the German, there are riders such as Mayo, Basso, Heras and so many other eternal aspirants.