Liberty Seguros rider Joseba Beloki used to be a major threat to Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France a few years ago, but ever since the Spanish climber broke his bones on the sticky tarmac of the Col de la Rochette in 2003, he has never been able to fulfil all the promises of his talent again. This year, he made his comeback at the French Grand Tour, and could barely live up to his most modest ambitions: finishing it. Speaking to Spanish Marca, Beloki has now revealed that he did hope to be at the top of his form once again this summer.
"I have to be back up front," Beloki said. "I want to try to be at the best possible level; it's a personal challenge." The Spaniard is still an important part of the Liberty Seguros team, as director Manolo Saiz made him share a room with Kazakh champion Alexandre Vinokourov at the team's training camp in Cantabria recently, which could indicate that he would be likely to be integrated in the 2006 Tour de France roster. "Of course Vinokourov will be our leader at the Tour [assuming that Roberto Heras will receive a suspension - ed.]. If my level next year is the same as it was in the first half of 2005, I'll have to keep my hopes down, but if I'm on the same level as I was in the Vuelta, I can set myself some goals," commented Beloki, whose confidence has been boosted since September.
"I've come a long way from not being able to finish a race in 2004, barely doing so in the first part of 2005 and feeling well again in the Vuelta," the 32 year-old explained. "The turning point was the Tour; to finish in Paris under great pain. The problem is that I still haven't achieved any results, so it's clear that I have to get a whole lot better to be once again who I was before."
That is exactly Beloki's goal, and although it is still far away, his dreams may become reality one day. "I always dream about the same thing: to see myself up front at the Tour again," he admitted. "I don't dream about the podium, because it's very difficult and only very few people stand a chance to get there, but just being up front would be an enormous satisfaction. I would also like to win a stage, but that is also very hard - which is why I would be satisfied with just being consistent again."
Beloki will start into the 2006 season with the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and he's not thinking about hanging up the bike just yet. "I plan beyond 2006 because after such a bad time, I feel rejuvenated, I really like riding my bike again," the Spaniard said. "I do think about 2007, but only if I do well - just to finish races doesn't fit with my character, I need other motivation that than that."