Jesús Rodrigo is the director of the Escuela de Ciclismo de las Mestas, a cycling school for young people in Gijón, where José Luis 'Chechu' Rubiera (Astana) trained from the age of 14.
Based in the Velodromo de las Mestas, the school encourages young cyclists to learn through training and competition. Rubiera is a regular visitor to the training sessions, and in a recent press interview, he said that after retiring, he would like to support youth cycling in Asturias, and in particular the cycling school of Las Mestas.
Rodrigo provided some background on the school. "The school was established in the 1980s, I've been president and director since 1986. We don't select the children, we take every one who comes to us. We use fat, tall, small, skinny. We don't care that they are not going to become cyclists."
But some who went through the school did become professional cyclists – and good ones, too. Besides Rubiera, there are Daniel Navarro (Astana), Luis Pasamontes (Caisse d'Epargne), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), David De La Fuente (Scott-American Beef) and Andres Avelino Antuña (Burgos Monumental).
However, the school also produces biologists, engineers, physical education teachers, police and others. Developing professional cyclists is not the main goal. "The primary aim is to develop not just cyclists but also good people."
School starts in November with general basic fitness. In January the bike comes into the picture. In April, competitions start with one day each week, except the juniors who take part in three races in four days during the summer. The season ends in September, followed by a break until November.
Rodrigo remembers Rubiera's beginnings very well. "He was not the best of his generation, but on the bike, he showed his skills. Even at this early age, he was known for his kindness and his team spirit." And there were the odd memories, such as Rubiera showing up at a race, having left his entire race kit at home. Or pumping up his tyres so hard, both front and rear wheel exploded. "I could fill a book with those," Rodrigo smiled.
Rodrigo can point back to the race when they knew Rubiera was special, the Memorial Valenciaga in Eibar (Basque Country) in 1995.
Rubiera immediately took Johan Bruyneel up on his offer to join US Postal. 'Chechu' believed that it would be a great chance to learn English, showing that the school doesn't keep the kids single-minded.