An interview with Santiago Botero, September 3, 2005
Santiago Botero made a welcome return to form this season after two disappointing years with T-Mobile. Health problems prevented him from hitting the kind of form which in the past had seen him win the world time trial championships, take stages in the Tour de France and Tour of Spain and finish 4th, 7th and 8th in the Tour. He also won the mountains jersey in 2000. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes spoke to the 32 year-old before the start of this year's Vuelta to find out how things have gone for him this year.
Cyclingnews: How have you been since the Tour de France?
Santi Botero: Tired! After the Tour I was very tired. I took a week's rest, more or less, and I started training step by step with the goal of reaching top shape for the last week of the Vuelta and the World Championships. For me, the objective in this Vuelta is not the general classification.
The problem this year was that I hit good condition too early. In April, May and June I was in top condition, but in the Tour it began to drop. I was in good shape for more than three months and to stay at 100 percent for this long is not easy. So I didn't have enough time to build back up for the Vuelta.
CN: Did you expect to hit top shape when you did?
SB: I was lost! I was lost because the last two years I didn't have good results, through problems with my health. I was happy to become a good cyclist again, but I didn't make a good calculation with my training for the Tour. But for next season I will know how to do it right. It's not easy to get the timing correct when you are banking everything on the Tour de France.
CN: What is your condition like at the moment?
SB: Not so good. I think I am only at about 50 percent of my best form. I haven't raced since the Tour.
CN: So, ruling out the overall, will you target the prologue and time trial stages during the Vuelta?
SB: The time trial stages, yes, but the prologue is complicated. I don't have the legs now. I know that I don't have the form [at this point], but I will try to do a good ride in Tarragona. And the last one is important. It is flat, it is in Madrid and it is the last test before the world championships. [Botero finished 9th in the prologue - ed.]
CN: So who will lead the Phonak team in this race?
SB: At the beginning, it will be Floyd. Santos Gonzalez is good, and Pereiro. They are three riders that I think can do a good general classification ride.
CN: And looking outside the Phonak team, who for you are the main contenders?
SB: Mancebo is a very good rider. Heras, because he has three Vueltas to his name. And there are always new guys, too. There is also Simoni - you never know, he could do a good Vuelta.
CN: You won three stages in this race before...I guess you enjoy competing here?
SB: Yes, Spain is nice. For me it is easier to race here because I speak Spanish and the people are more similar to those in Colombia. The food is good in Spain and you can watch the television here without problems.
CN: Were the strong results you got in the spring important for rebuilding your confidence?
SB: Yes, very much so. My first race was Flèche Wallonne and that went well, then in Liège I did a good job for the team. I went on from that and won the Tour of Romandie, so after two days of competition I went into a ProTour race and won. That was a good result for me, because I trained very, very hard at home. In December, January, February, I put many, many kilometres into my legs. Catalunya was good but I had a cold so that affected my condition. After that, I was again very good in the Dauphine, where I took two stages and we fought until the end.
In the Tour, I had only ten good stages and after that, my condition dropped. I was not happy because the Tour is very important for me. But it is motivation for next season [to do well there].
CN: You won the world time trial championship before so, obviously, you are going to be one of the big contenders. The course is pretty flat there in Madrid so will that suit your characteristics?
SB: It is pretty good but I am a rider who can go well on the flat or in the small mountains, anyway. For example, it was flat in Zolder and I was strong. But one year before that, it was up and down, up and down and I was also in good condition. The important thing is how I am going. If I am good shape I can do well [on any terrain]. The only problem is if there are many, many corners, it is not very good for me.
CN: That isn't the case in Madrid...
SB: It is flat with only one small climb. I think it will be a good time trial for me.
CN: How important is riding the Vuelta to get top form for the world championships...do you think it is crucial?
SB: Yes, it is crucial. If I don't do the Vuelta, it is complicated. For me, it is very, very important as at this point of the season, I can't go back home to Colombia and train 100 percent. So it is very important that I finish the Vuelta.
CN: What about the road race in Madrid?
SB: I don't know. I will do the time trial and we will see about the other. I read in the paper that it is flat. There are good riders for that kind of race but it doesn't really suit my characteristics.
CN: And afterwards?
SB: I finish. I go back to Colombia, have a holiday and then myself and my wife will have another child, one is due.
CN: Congratulations on that. So how do you unwind in the off-season?
SB: I spend time with my family. For me, the best way to relax is to be with my people. We will go to the Caribbean with my family and totally relax.
CN: It's clearly more difficult for you, being from Colombia, than for the riders who are from Europe. Do you see your family often during the season?
SB: Yes, before the Tour I was with my wife and my daughter. But not now. I always think that this aspect is much easier for the European riders - they finish their race and then they go back home. I finish a race, then I go back to a hotel. It is the same the whole time, it is not easy.
CN: As you say, now you have your form back and you know how to prepare better. So is the Tour the most important focus for next year?
SB: Yes. My plan is...first I need to speak with John [Lelangue, team director] about what I want and then we will work out a plan. I will do the same as this year, but later. Firstly, I will have a month without the bike. Last year I only took fifteen days off, it was not much. So this winter, I will have a month off the bike, then do things in a similar way to this season. That is, I'll do three months of gym work, I will ride the bike at home, I will swim. I'll just change things slightly so I hit form later.
Now I have my confidence back. I know that my training works. It is different when you are training, training, training but you are not getting results. I always train very hard and when it doesn't work for me, my motivation goes down. But now I know how to do things in the best way, so I am optimistic about the future.