Oscar Pereiro has shown great form in the lead up to the second major goal of his season, the 2007 Vuelta a España. In only his first outing since the Tour de France and his last before the Vuelta, he finished just six seconds behind winner, Pierrick Fedrigo in the small four day event the Tour du Limousin in France.
With team-mate Alejandro Valverde not taking part in this years event, the humble Spaniard will start the event as the sole leader of the Caisse d'Epargne team with the ambition of wearing the Golden Fleece into Madrid in 21 days time, Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet in Limoges after the finish of his final test before returning to Spain.
Old recipes still work in modern cycling. While explaining how Miguel Indurain, who dominated the early 90's with his Banesto team, built the form necessary to take victory in the 1992 Tour of Italy, team manager José Miguel Echavarri said Indurain used "the humility of riding the Circuit de la Sarthe as a preparation for the pink jersey." What he meant was, Indurain used a four-day stage race with little prestige and small fields but nice roads and acceptable organisation in the centre of France to fine tune himself for the bigger and more prestigious event in May.
The Tour du Limousin in August is the equivalent of the Circuit de la Sarthe in April. Its terrain is a bit more undulating than la Sarthe, but that is precisely what attracted Oscar Pereiro to use the race for a pre-Vuelta warm up. "Initially, my plan was to not race at all between the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain, but the Tour du Limousin appeared to me as an opportunity to check out my condition before my big goal of the second part of the season," the Galician explained.
After running the change of heart by his team, the Caisse d'Epargne management was more than happy to offer him something to do. "I asked my team to line me up in a stage race in August and they offered me the Tour du Limousin; I said OK, it sounds good." Much like Indurain avoided the bigger races in the lead up to the Giro, Pereiro reckoned the bigger ProTour races like the Tour of Germany or the Eneco Tour were too long and stressful for a tranquilo build-up to his country's national tour, compared to the small and friendly French race built around the legend of Raymond Poulidor, who is still the race radio commentator of the Tour du Limousin, at age 71.
Pereiro set himself two peaks for this season, the first and most obvious one was in July for the Tour, the second was for September and in particular his national Tour but Pereiro is also thinking of the worlds, he believes that the Stuttgart course should suit him well and has every intention to come out of the Vuelta in good form and contest the championships at the end of a long season. "If I come out of the Vuelta with good form, I'd like to do the Worlds as well," Pereiro added.
But for now, he has set his sights on his national Tour. The race begins Saturday, in Vigo, the capital of his region but he added that "As far as I know, there's nothing special organised for me, but of course there will be high expectations from my fans." He's well aware of the higher expectations after his tenth place in the Tour this year, following his second place in 2006.