Finally on winner's podium

The 16th stage of the Tour between Mourenx and Pau saw Phonak's Oscar Pereiro win a four man sprint...

An interview with Oscar Pereiro Sio, July 19, 2005

The 16th stage of the Tour between Mourenx and Pau saw Phonak's Oscar Pereiro win a four man sprint to take the team's first stage win of this year's race. In doing so, he had to bridge a five minute gap to leader on the road Cadel Evans, forming a group with Evans, Zandio, and Mazzoleni that made it to the finish. Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner reports from Pau.

Oscar Pereiro Sio stayed true to the promise he made when the Spaniard lost the previous stage to Discovery's George Hincapie before rest day. "I'll continue trying and one day I hope to be rewarded," he had said - but that he would have the legs to try again so soon is truly remarkable.

The Spanish climber, who stayed on the winner's podium longer than usual to savour the moment, was very satisfied that he was able to make amends for his disappointment on Pla d'Adet. "I am delighted to get this after my disappointment the other day," he said. "This is a victory for Phonak. We have had a good year, myself and Floyd and the other riders, and worked hard to get ready for the Tour." Later, he admitted that he had also thought about his wife, Maria, and their little baby boy which will be born in about three months time as he crossed the line, kissing his wedding ring.

"She watches the Tour on television but only the climbs - she turns the TV off in the descents as she got very frightened the other day when I crashed in the Madeleine. I'm very careful now in the descents... But I also thought of my parents, friends - everybody!"

The Phonak rider started the move towards his and Phonak's first Tour de France win on the Col du Marie-Blanque, and progressively drove from one group to the other, leaving behind the first break of the day up the Aubisque, and finally into a four-man group including Cadel Evans, Eddy Mazzoleni and Xabier Zandio and himself.

Asked about his racing strategy in the Marie-Blanque, where he attacked several times and then let himself be chased down again, he explained, "That was the only possibility to get back the five minutes lead of the break. I wanted to attract the attention of Rasmussen, therefore the GC contenders to accelerate the pace. And when I caught the front group on the Aubisque I knew that today would be a great day for me."

His dedicated quest for victory was almost lost as in the descent of the Aubisque, his rear wheel locked up because of a little stone. But fortunately, the Phonak team car was right behind the Spaniard and he could change the wheel quickly.

Pereiro also thanked Phonak's former directeur sportif, Alvaro Pino, who got him inside the Swiss squad in the first place, as well as team leaders Floyd Landis and Santiago Botero, who let him take his chances. "I came to the Tour feeling very hopeful, and I asked Floyd and Santi to give me a little more freedom to try and go for stage wins, as it's a lottery and if you stay inside the bunch you ride all day for nothing. So I could, and I'm truly happy that I finally won," Pereiro explained, adding that DS John Lelangue would probably lose some hair tonight. "When I came on the Tour I cut my hair a little too short, only about one centimetre as I made a mistake with the machine. Anyway, he told me that if I won a stage, he'd do the same..."

Finally, he Spaniard was also asked if he felt that this stage win was a revenge for the lost opportunity two days ago, and he replied, "It's a relief, that's for sure. I don't hold any grudge against George Hincapie personally. We're in a race called the Tour de France and a victory here just means a lot. The other day, I thought the only way to win was to arrive solo in the finish, as I knew he was fast. Then again, I didn't think that he'd still be that strong in the finale after holding on for so long. I was fooled..."

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