Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz has one aim for 2005: the Tour de France. Speaking at the team's launch in Seseña (Toledo) yesterday, Saiz said, "We are going to try to win the Tour. The line-up last year was of great quality and this year it has been made even stronger."
Liberty Seguros certainly boasts an impressive array of talent for 2005, including Roberto Heras, Joseba Beloki, Igor González de Galdeano, Michele Scarponi and Portuguese rising star Sergio Paulinho.
"We are going to be the team to beat," said Saiz, "the team that provides an example, as Miguel Indurain said, a beacon in the world of international cycling. We are the best team in the world. We have the right mixture of youth and experience."
Roberto Heras, set to be the rider that Saiz pits against Lance Armstrong in the 2005 Tour de France, said he planned to arrive "fresh" in France in July to try and end Lance Armstrong's run of victories.
"The ambition of any sportsman is always to beat his greatest rival," said Heras, who is glad the six-time winner will ride this year's Tour. "It would not be good if Armstrong was in form but did not ride the Tour," he said.
Heras added that the UCI ProTour would not affect his preparation for the Tour de France. "I want to arrive at the Tour fresh physically and mentally," he said. "We have to learn from the mistakes [of last year]."
Heras intends to ride the Semana Catalana, Estella, Vuelta a País Vasco and Amorebieta as preparation for the Tour de France, where he will be supported by Liberty's latest acquisition, Joseba Beloki.
Beloki said he felt like a prodigal son returning, "home, where they look after me well and I get better results. I have extra motivation. I hope that I have all the problems of 2004 behind me. It was very hard not to be in the team last year, but now I am back, knowing that Roberto is the leader."
Heras being designated as the team's Tour contender "takes the pressure off me," said Beloki. "That Armstrong will ride the Tour is no surprise."
Beloki will ride the Vuelta a Murcia, Tirreno Adriático, Semana Catalana and Giro d'Italia in a fairly busy first third of the season. "I am going to race a lot because I need competition to regain my form," he said.