By Bjorn Haake in Valladolid
Stefan Schumacher is using the Vuelta a España as his last preparation race for the World Championships in Varese, like many of his Gerolsteiner colleagues. Schumacher is very optimistic to get a good result in Italy. Even though he hasn't gotten any results recently, the German was happy how his Vuelta went for him so far.
Schumacher emphasised how valuable the three-week race in Spain is for him. "The Vuelta is so difficult this year that there is enough training to be fit for the World Championships." He did acknowledge it would have been nice to get a success, and added that there are still a few days left. But the main goal is the Worlds. "I have no pressure. If the form is there, then I will be OK for Varese."
Schumacher said the Vuelta was hard right from the start, even more so because of a different programme, with the potential rest after the Tour replaced by the Olympic Games in Beijing. He also suffered health issues from the climatic conditions in China. "In and especially after Beijing I wasn't quite fit and I couldn't train well. So for that I am happy how I am doing here now." He added that he had to make sure not to overdo it in the Vuelta, to not jeopardise his Varese preparation.
For that the double Tour de France time trial winner felt he is on a good way and he has done his homework. "Yes, I know the course. I am not just going there at random. I think the course is difficult." When asked if he agreed with Oscar Freire, who said that a group of 30 or 40 will arrive, Schumacher said no. "I think it will be similar guys like in Stuttgart last year. From the difficulty I estimate the parcours equally hard as Stuttgart." Schumacher took the bronze medal last year in Stuttgart.
In Andorra he told Cyclingnews that he may target one specific stage in the Vuelta, otherwise he was mostly just going to get the training miles in. The day he chose was the stage to Suances. "I felt good and it was an interesting profile for me." Unfortunately, he was left behind with Alejandro Valverde on a wet descent. "It was a strange situation. It's not meant to be an excuse, but the race was very calm. I went to the car to get a rain jacket so I wouldn't get sick, as it was cold."
Then the front guys started hammering very hard, when they realised that they could get time on Valverde, who was still close in the overall at the time. Schumacher acknowledged it was a new situation for him, even though he has been a pro for a few years now. "You always learn something new... I wasn't even all the way at the back. There were only something like 50 riders in that front group."
Other than that, he mostly drew strength from the Vuelta. He also noticed his teammate Heinrich Haussler going well. "Heinrich finished third yesterday [stage 16] in the sprint, maybe we can still take out a stage. He has good legs." Schumacher will try to help him as much as he can, provided he can stay on course. In the hectic finale on that sixteenth stage, he took a wrong turn with a few other riders. "It's better than crashing, but I lost Heinrich that way..."