Unzue happy with Pereiro's second place
Team Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears has proclaimed itself very satisfied with the outcome of the 2006 Tour de France. The Spanish squad had entered the race counting on Alejandro Valverde as its tip for the top, but the ProTour leader crashed out early on. Oscar Pereiro's second place therefore exceeded all expectations.
"The Tour was surprising and unforeseeable," said manger Eusebio Unzue in a team statement. "We started the race with the feeling that we could win it, but that feeling went together with Alejandro's crash. Later we hoped that Karpets and Pereiro would do well in the Pyrenees so that we could fight for the first places on the general classification. Unfortunately we had to forget that dream too, as Karpets and Pereiro lost too much time to reasonably continue to think we could do well in the general classification. Another Tour started for us then. The aim was to go every day with the breakaways to try to win a stage."
However this paid off in a way not even Unzue could have anticipated. "It is with that idea that we left Luchon and it is precisely during one of those transition stages that Oscar went with the break with the intention of claiming the stage victory. Considering the passivity shown by teams that could win the Tour, Oscar had the opportunity to recover the time he lost in the Pyrenees and to put the yellow jersey on his shoulders.
"We consequently found the enthusiasm and the motivation which enabled us to perform a incredible final week. In the Alps, Oscar fought magnificently to defend his yellow jersey and confirmed that he really deserved his place on the podium of Paris. Twenty-four hours before reaching Paris we still had the hope and the dream to reach Paris with the yellow jersey in the team.
"In short, one can say that during this Tour we experienced completely contradictory states of heart and mind, starting with the loss of our leader and going onto chasing the final victory in this race. It was a really surprising and spectacular one [Tour] which, I believe, will make it possible for the sport of cycling to have a beautiful image once more.
"I hope that our sport will finally step out this crisis in which it was plunged. I also believe that this year thanks to a greater equality between the riders – something which caused many incredible situations during the race, sometimes difficult to understand, we experienced plenty of true emotions.
I cannot forget the fact that we were really close to the victory and that may be…well, anyway, I am happy with our race because our team really gave its all to try to keep the yellow jersey."
Unzue said that while tactics undoubtedly played a part, 28 year old Pereiro has grown in confidence and will have bigger goals from now on. There is a parallel; back in 1990 Claudio Chiappucci got clear in an early break and finished ten minutes clear of the peloton. He also held yellow heading into the final time trial, but ended up finishing second to another American, Greg LeMond. However he came back the following year as a genuine contender, something that Unzue will hope Pereiro can do.
"There was a lack of coherence in some riders' behaviour who claimed they wanted to win the Tour," he said, "even if I must recognize that it is thanks to this inconsistency that we could go for the yellow jersey and, consequently, also had a possibility to win the race. It is thus on a note of satisfaction that I will go home, thanks to the behaviour of all the team throughout the race and of course thanks to what Oscar carried out. From now on we know he can have bigger ambitions than before."