Jose Luis 'Chechu' Rubiera is a name familiar to most cycling fans as the faithful mountain domestique who helped deliver Lance Armstrong to five of his seven Tour de France victories. Lauded by commentators for his selfless dedication to the team, Rubiera is now unexpectedly one of the last Discovery Channel riders to find a contract for 2008 after the team closed its doors at the end of the season.
"I still haven't decided anything because I don't have any offer on the table," Rubiera said in an interview published in the Spanish newspaper El Comercio and translated on his fan site, www.chechurubiera.info. "The disappearance of Discovery harmed cycling. A lot of riders are jobless. Jobs are very scarce. And salaries are not very good."
After 13 years as a professional cyclist, it's hard to believe that his career would come to such an abrupt end. "It's possible that this was my last season," Rubiera said. "Times are hard for us. Many are left without a team and the market is coming to an end."
Before giving up his personal aspirations to serve Armstrong in the mountains during the Tour de France, Rubiera was a champion in his own right. Two stage wins in the Giro d'Italia, two top tens in the Italian tour in (10th in 1997, 8th in 2000), and two in the Vuelta a España (6th in 1999, 7th in 2001) along with many high stage finishes and GC positions in other stage races.
After the retirement of Armstrong, Rubiera's role began to fade until finally, this season, he chose to skip the Tour de France in favour of his home tour, the Vuelta a España.
Now that Johan Bruyneel has taken over management of the Astana squad, he has taken several of the jobless Discovery Channel riders along with him: Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, Vladimir Gusev, Benjamin Noval, Jani Brajkovic, Thomas Vaitkus, Sergio Paulinho and even director sportif Sean Yates. However, Rubiera, despite his solid reputation and strong relationship with Bruyneel, has yet to get the call up.
Rubiera, a graduate in engineering, could easily find a career in another field if his cycling days come to an end, but he hasn't yet given up hope of finding the right situation on the right team. "I am 34. It should be a team that would allow me to select my schedule because I have many stages behind me. Maybe take part in one long and several five-day races", Rubiera explained.
The rider from Gijón indicated that he would like to stay involved in the sport regardless of what happens. "I would also like to train young kids, beginners".