A brilliant year
After four successful years at Phonak, Oscar Pereiro has decided to move to an outfit from his own...
An interview with Oscar Pereiro, November 28, 2005
After four successful years at Phonak, Oscar Pereiro has decided to move to an outfit from his own country: Illes Balears. With Francisco Mancebo leaving for Ag2R and just one other leader in Alejandro Valverde, the 28 year-old has the opportunity to be one of the stars.
Illes Balears' Oscar Pereiro has enjoyed a tremendous 2005 season. As well as equalling his tenth place overall at the Tour de France, he added an unforgettable victory on the sixteenth stage to Pau.
He also demonstrated excellent teamwork at the world road championships in Madrid, helping his team-mate Alejandro Valverde to a silver medal. A prologue win at the Tour de Romandie and two more top ten places in ProTour stage races rounded out his best year to date.
I caught up with him while he was resting from a long season in Spain. He was in his hometown in Pontevedra (Galicia). "I'm at home and this year with a little one in the family, my first son," says Pereiro with joy and pride. "The truth is that I have to give him time and enjoy him as much as I can, because in January or February, I will have to leave home."
Cyclingnews: The 2005 cycling calendar is coming to a close; how was this season for you?
Oscar Pereiro: It was a season with different moments and sensations. At the beginning, it was a complicated season because in the winter many things happened with the team. We were inside the ProTour, then we weren't... The truth is that we were very doubtful, nervous and had a little bit of fear of what could happen with the team.
On the other hand, when we proved to be right and they [the UCI] put ourselves inside the ProTour again it turned to be a nice season. I think it was the best season that I did since I turned professional. It was a season that started with a new director [Spain's Juan Fernandez] who gave me the chance to go to the Tour de France as I wanted, as one of the team leaders. In the end, we were lucky and it turned to be a phenomenal Tour.
CN: You also performed well in the Tour of Romandie. How was that?
OP: I had been telling the people I know, the team's mechanics and others that they should be ready because the first win of the year would come there. And it was a curious thing because I did it; I was doing well in Liege working for [Miguel Martin] Perdiguero, doing well in Amstel and also in Fleche Wallonne. It was a race that I had to get the most of it because I was in shape. It was a race that suited me very well because it had two time trials and it wasn't extremely hard. I thought it was the moment to win one stage and things went perfectly. Honestly, after that and considering the way [Santiago] Botero was riding, I had to give him a hand. And in the end Botero ended up winning the race.
CN: I guess the highlight of your year was your victory in Pau in the stage 16 of the Tour, right?
OP: Yes, it was nice, it was a nice victory. I also don't want to forget about the day I finished second in Saint-Lary [stage 15] because it wasn't a disappointment for me. A super classy rider like [George] Hincapie beat me, a rider who climbs very well. That was also a beautiful stage, but a hard struggle. We [he and Hincapie] were the protagonists of the stage that helped me get angry to win the next day in Pau. That day in Pau was naturally the happiest day of the year.
CN: You finished tenth in 2004 too, but you didn't win a stage last year...
OP: Yes, and the difference is very big. It's certain that it was my debut in the Tour de France last year and finishing 10th at my first attempt was like a victory for me. The Tour is the race that you watch on TV since you were a child and you dream of competing there. Last year, after all the things that had happened, after the time that we lost in the time trial and all those things, tenth was like a triumph for me.
This year I risked [my place on GC] since the day in Courchevel [stage 10]. I knew I was risking my position on the general [classification] because other riders could take advantage of my bravery. But I think I was rewarded: the stage, the combativity [Pereiro was the most combative rider of the Tour - ed.] and a place among the first 10 riders.
CN: You were among the favourites in the last Vuelta a España, but your performance wasn't as good as in the Tour. Would you agree?
OP: It is true. I didn't perform the same way in the Vuelta. I reached the Tour at my best. Maybe I didn't pay [as much] attention to the Vuelta a España. When I did, the Vuelta was just around the corner and I hardly trained.
CN: Nevertheless, on stage 13 to Santuario de la Bien Aparecida you were very close to win in a very bizarre finale - it's very unusual to see that in Grand Tours...
OP: [Laughs] It was very bizarre, it was like a blooper... I had seen the parcours some days before; it was one of the stages that I marked to try and win.
I remember perfectly there was a break leading the race that day. I changed the pace, attacking from the peloton with 50 kilometres to go. I caught the leaders and three kilometres from the end, I was alone. [Mauricio] Ardila [Davitamon-Lotto] caught me at one and a half kilometres [from the finish] but we didn't cooperate. I knew Ardila was very fast and I didn't want to play the fool, taking him on my wheel up to the end.
Then, we saw Samuel [Sanchez, Euskaltel Euskadi] was coming; Ardila sprinted and the truth is that we both thought wrong. There was a billboard 100 metres before the finish line, Ardila and I sprinted thinking that was the end of the stage and well... [Samuel Sanchez won the stage, crossing the real finish line in first place - ed.] At least it was funny.
CN: You told me at the finish line of stage 20 in Madrid that you were very tired and wanted to rest. How did you spend those days between the Vuelta and the World's?
OP: That Monday was a complete rest day. On Tuesday we trained a bit. The day I trained most that week I did went for four hours. I enjoyed that time because I was truly tired, especially doing the Tour and the Vuelta and the way we performed all year long. I was really tired, but the world's cheers up to ride for another week.
The truth is that I didn't notice the tiredness during Sunday's race [the day of the elite men's road race]. When they [the Spanish team people] told me I had to try to break the race, I think that I did it well, my job was accomplished. I think I came home with the sensation of fulfillment after the world's. CN: As you said, you were working for Alejandro Valverde...
OP: I didn't think of myself at any moment. There was Valverde, another like Perdiguero or [Igor] Astarloa. We all trusted them to get what was finally achieved - a medal. The team selector [Francisco "Paco"] Antequera had talked with many riders that we had to break, move the race. When they told me that, I made a hard, strong, continuous attack. At that moment, there was a selection in the race. So, I'm pleased.
CN: Paco Antequera has done a remarkable job as the Spanish team selector. His successor will have to work very...
CN: Yes, that's the word, hard. Who do you see as his successor? What do you think?
OP: I don't dare to say a name to place in his seat because there are many good trainers in Spain, people who can do it very well. It's true that Paco Antequera leaves a very good history. In the national team people think as a group and that's already done. It's true that in order to be the selector one should have the personality strong enough to bring riders who he knows will not fail on the day of the race. I think that no matter who takes charge, he will do it very well. The important thing is to follow Antequera's steps, that is to say that the national team should be very united and that everyone should go for the same goal - that is to win the world's, no matter who rides.
CN: Your career in Phonak is over. How are your memories?
OP: There are very good memories. If I think about it, it's a pity because they [the Phonak people] treated me incredibly well. There has been four very nice years for me. I have many friends, people treated me very well. But, in life you should decide sometimes. This is my job and my stay there came to an end. I have very good memories, very good friends and I give them an "A" for my time being there, for the treatment I received.
CN: Referring to this new period that you start with the Illes Balears jersey, how do you see it?
OP: I see it as very nice because I spent four years in Phonak and here [at Illes Balears] I have new expectations, I can't wait to start. Illes Balears is a very big team, a team with big goals, with good riders, with good people. They really wanted to hire me. I can't wait for the first training camp to come, receiving the team clothes and all those things to start working.
CN: Francisco Mancebo left Illes Balears but Valverde remains there, so you could be the second choice for big races. What do you think?
OP: It's certain that Valverde will be the team leader at the Tour and in the important races. If I have to work for him, I will do it without a problem. He will be the head of the team in the Tour I suppose, I hope we can go well and if not, I will take my own chances.
CN: Are you training these days?
OP: I am currently going to the gym and doing some road and mountain bike rides. I started training a month ago. Usually, I begin training a bit harder in December.
CN: How is your routine at this time of the year?
OP: These days are always the same. I wake up in the morning and one day I take the bag and go to the gym, another day I do some road riding, another I do mountain bike. Usually, I alternate on the bike two or three days and the rest going to the gym, swimming, a bit of everything.
CN: Which are your plans up to the end of the year?
OP: To keep on training, to turn on engines, as I like to say, and to do the usual routine. Training, going to the gym, riding, a bit of everything. Enjoying friends and family and 'keeping my batteries charged' because two months has passed since the world's.
CN: What are your first races in 2006?
OP: Honestly, I can not say because I have been with [team manager] Eusebio [Unzue] just two or three times. We wanted to talk about the calendar, but we didn't have the opportunity. I don't know when I'll start but I guess I will begin in Majorca.
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By Josh Ross