Gunning for another rainbow jersey
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.
Botero's T-Mobile years saw a noticeable drop off in results, but after returning to full health, normal service was resumed this season. The Phonak rider dominated the Tour of Romandie, taking the time trial stage plus the overall, rode solidly in the Tour of Catalunya, then took two stages and finished second overall in the Dauphiné Libéré. However, after finishing 2nd on the 11th stage of the Tour de France, a tired Botero started to struggle, eventually reaching Paris 51st overall.
Speaking to Cyclingnews just before the start of this year's Vuelta, the Colombian explained the problem. "I was lost! I was lost because the last two years I didn't have good results, through problems with my health," he stated. "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."
Botero is happy to be performing well again this year. "It is great to be back. 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]."
Before the Vuelta Botero told Cyclingnews that he was only at about 50 percent of his top form. He was relaxed about this, though, saying that everything was aimed towards winning another world time trial title later this month.
"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 32 year old said he was aiming for good rides in the time trials in the Tour of Spain, but didn't expect to do well in the prologue. "I will target the time trial stages, yes, but the prologue is complicated," he said. "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."
However he was a strong ninth on the opening day, showing that his condition in races against the clock was slightly higher than his own pre-race calculation. Botero's next gauge of his form will come in the time trial on Sunday, where he will hope to do a strong ride in the 48 kilometre test.
Click here for the full interview