Juan José Cobo (Movistar) has played down his chances of a repeat win in the Vuelta after an infected wisdom tooth hit his build-up following the Tour de France.
Cobo has been flying under the radar for most of the year, and was only on the attack in the Tour’s final Pyrenean stage where he set things up for team-mate Alejandro Valverde’s win with some aggressive riding early on, but the Vuelta was due to be his main target for 2012. However, there is now a big questionmark over that big objective.
“Personally I’m not in great shape,” Cobo said on Friday, “thanks to this infectionn I’m not in the shape I’d like to be. My idea is to improve my condition as the race progresses and do what I can.”
Cobo had earlier told Spanish newspaper El Mundo that he had had to stop training for ten days as a result of the wisdom tooth problem,
“I’ve had a kidney operation in the past, but nothing like the pain this gave me.”
However, he added that he felt more self-belief than before, despite the setback. “I’ve always been a pessimist, I never believed in my potential on the bike. But now I believe in myself. I’ve managed to place my targets a little bit higher and I really don’t know what my upper limit is.”
“I feel like I can challenge for important things and there are always positive circumstances that can change your life.”
Asked what he thought of the route, Cobo added, “It’s a tough race, with a little bit of everything in it. There are three good stages in the north for me but on the short, steep finishes [like in Jaca and Galicia] riders like Purito [Rodriguez - Katusha] will be able to make a big difference.”
He denied that he felt as if he was under pressure, and added that he had no problem with the media’s more intense interest in Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. “Froome was second in the Vuelta and second in the Tour where he was the strongest climber and Contador was the number one in the world before he stopped racing. It’s normal that they are more interested in them.”
As for 2009 Vuelta winner and team-mate Alejandro Valverde, the Movistar rider said that he had no idea how he would handle three weeks of hard racing after the Tour. Valverde showed strongly in the Clásica San Sebastian on Tuesday, but says his prior objective is to help Cobo fight for the overall.
“Contador will be the top favouite because he’s prepared this race in depth. Froome, if he’s the same Froome as in the Tour, will be difficult to beat,” Valverde argued. “Then there’s a whole group of riders like Purito, [Denis] Menchov [Katusha], [Robert] Gesink [Rabobank], Igor Anton [Euskaltel-Euskadi] and Juanjo himself will all be in the mix.”