A calm leader

An interview with Roberto Heras, September 11, 2005

Despite a heavy crash three days ago that required 15 stitches on his left leg, despite having just one last chance to reclaim the maillot oro, and until today, despite Russian Denis Menchov showing no sign of weakness, Roberto Heras displayed his usual calm. Well, that's how it was before he saw his moment to attack, writes Hernan Alvarez Macias.

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros-Würth) seems to be a person with a steady way of being. During bad moments, he doesn't look so bad, and in good times, he doesn't show too high a mood. Heras had a really harsh time last Thursday when he crashed and hurt his left knee badly. The big question was: would this problem affect him? Would it mean his defeat?

Today, the Spaniard answered all questions in a very straightforward way, reclaiming the golden jersey from Denis Menchov (Rabobank) on a crucial stage in the southern part of the mountainous Asturias region. But at the press conference in the finish, Heras didn't seem to be overly excited - maybe that is one of the secrets of an 'old warrior' very used to the big battles on the tarmac.

"I did the last kilometre and a half in the Colladiella at my very best and [Carlos] Sastre, [Denis] Menchov and I reached the summit together," explained the current Vuelta leader. "They came with me, but it was in the descent that I could get an advantage."

The Spaniard knew the key climb of the Colladiella better than Menchov. "I knew it, but not perfectly well," he said. "There were some corners that I took without knowing what to expect. I just knew my teammates were down the climb waiting for me, so I took my chances there."

Stage 15 was the last chance for Roberto Heras if he really wanted to wear the leader's jersey again. "We knew that today was the last chance to knock Menchov because it is the most complicated stage. But the strategy didn't change," admitted the Liberty rider. "The strategy was the same as in the other days: to attack until we can get rid of him."

The current leader also talked about how he saw the Russian today. "I saw that yesterday he didn't have any problem following my wheel," said Heras. "There wasn't one moment when he couldn't keep up, but the thing is that in three-week races, the fatigue increases day after day. You don't have to look at the race at the end of each stage, but when the Vuelta ends," he explained further.

"Although it might sound [arrogant - ed.], the stage went exactly as we planned it," Heras continued in his meek ways. "We didn't know whether we would have four of our riders ahead, or three, two or just one. What was clear was that we were going to attack at the Colladiella and that most important thing was to have riders up front after that climb. That was exactly what we talked about this morning."

He also emphasised the important role of his team. "The Vuelta is not won only by a single rider; nine riders win the Vuelta," the Spaniard insisted. "As I said before, my team is the strongest of the race and it is also the squad that knows how to manage the race to its own profit. We'd better compare the teams rather than the single riders [him and Menchov]. In today's stage, the winner was Liberty Seguros-Würth," said Heras.

Heras received 15 stitches on his left knee after stage 12 last Thursday. That certainly hurt him when pedalling, but "my knee is fine. It is resisting. I must be very careful to avoid an infection," he concluded.

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