By Antonio J. Salmerón
Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears team manager Eusebio Unzué decided to send racer Fran Pérez to the Giro d'Italia in 2006 rather than to the Tour de France along with his friend and countryman Alejandro Valverde. For that reason, at the end of February, Pérez was already exhibiting good form from which he profited at the Clásica de Almeria.
"I was preparing for Giro, but it was a long way away, so I did not wait for success there," said Pérez. A few days later, he made his season debut in his home country at the Vuelta a Murcia, where he had never previously been able to compete while racing for his former Portuguese Maia-Millaneza team. "It was a very nice experience," said Pérez of the Vuelta a Murcia race.
Pérez suffered a slow start to the Giro, especially after the time trial. "I had a pair of bad days, so that I dropped in the General [classification], although I soon recovered some positions," said Pérez. Teammate Jose Iván Gutiérrez later assumed the leadership role, which let Pérez catch his breath and focus on the upcoming racing in the Dolomites.
Once back home, Pérez set his sights on the Vuelta, but Unzué did not favor the decision. He preferred Pablo Lastras. "I accepted that badly, because I had been training very hard," said Pérez, who will lose a close teammate for 2007, Cayetano Juliá.
At the end of 2007, Pérez's contract will be up for renewal with Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears. He said, "I would like to continue one season more, because I am very happy here." When discussing his 2007 calendar, he said "I want my schedule to be more fixed, that is, without unforeseeable last minute changes because I need to have a fixed target." Elaborating on his desired race goals for 2007, Pérez said, "I prefer to go to the Giro than rather than race in the Tour."