Beating the best

At the finish of Stage 3 , the big names were in Almendralejo - Erik Zabel, Robbie McEwen,...

An interview with Francisco Ventoso, September 10, 2006

At the finish of Stage 3, the big names were in Almendralejo - Erik Zabel, Robbie McEwen, Alessandro Petacchi and Thor Hushovd. The bunch sprint came but none of them prevailed. On that day, it was Francisco Ventoso who had his moment of glory. Hernan Alvarez Macias found out what it's like to beat the best.

From that moment on, his name didn't sound strange to many cycling fans. He is another rider who comes from the interminable youth categories of Spanish cycling, and in the future, Francisco Ventoso may be another great sprinter like Oscar Freire.

When Cyclingnews caught up with him after Stage 11 in Burgos, he said of day: "Today [September 6] it was what we call a transition stage," said Ventoso "but with the climbs at the beginning and the tension in the peloton, together with the wind, the stage wasn't very comfortable in the end."

"As the proverb says, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." - Francisco Ventoso explains how he won against all odds on Stage 3 of the Vuelta

He was also among the riders who made the right breakaway in Stage 10. "We arrived in Cantabria, which is my home town, and I really wanted to get in the right breakaway. I was lucky to get in it but I couldn't finish off the job in the finale," stated Ventoso. The Spanish rider finished fifth that day, 7 seconds behind the winner Sergio Paulinho of Astana.

Francisco Ventoso is having a good season; before his win in Stage 3, he had already been doing well. "I had good results during the whole season," he said. "In the Vuelta a Valencia, Paris-Nice... in the classics in Belgium, I did pretty well too. In the Tour [de France], I never went better than seventh place, but here in the Vuelta a España, I was rewarded and I was able to win, beating all the big guns."

His victory in Extremadura was against all odds: "As the proverb says, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

"If you are [among the top sprinters] each day, some day... the differences won't be so big, especially in a crazy sprint like that one. After Millar's attack in the last kilometre, people got confused, and I made the most of it, accelerating far from the finish line - and I won."

The work of his team is also important, said Ventoso: "I think overall, Millar's work is outstanding," he said. "He doesn't have a problem making himself available for me in bunch sprints like yesterday [Stage 10], where by chance we got into the right breakaway. From the very beginning, he said to me that in the last kilometres, he would work for me to try and make it a bunch finish."

Saunier Duval gives plenty of importance to Vuelta a España. About this, Ventoso said: "We are at home. We are a relatively small team, among the ones with smaller budgets but that doesn't matter. In the end, we are very combative on road; the spirit of the team is to always be combative. Some of us get in breakaways, some others in sprints and [Jose Gomez] Marchante is well placed on the general classification. As a whole, we are well placed in all the classifications of the race."

"We are obviously not the best riders in the world," said Ventoso about his team. "We are more like a team of youngsters, but I think we compensate [for] this with the strengths and the motivation the whole team has and our fighting spirit."

Naturally, Saunier Duval team manager Joxean Fernandez Matxin plays a significant role in the team's strategy. "He is a very young director, considering the other directors inside elite cycling," said Ventoso. "He always wants us to be protagonists in the races. In all the races we go to, we don't go without motivation. We must always be focused in the race and must fight for all the races that we ride."

Ventoso appears to feel very comfortable in this team. "I have one more year on my contract. As long as they [the team managers] and I agree, with my performance and with the offer in economic terms, I will stay on. I feel very content here. I have spent many years in this team. We were always interested in each other and I hope this continues."

His season won't be over after the Vuelta, either. "At first, I will race Paris-Tours but I'm not sure. I will see how things are going because after riding the classics, the season is getting a bit long. I hope to race the world's with my national team and I hope to end the season there, even though this is already a bit long," he concluded.

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