The Liberty Seguros team held a press conference on the first rest day of the Vuelta with Roberto Heras and Manolo Saiz talking about the situation so far. Heras, the pre-race favourite and triple Vuelta winner, is currently second overall behind Denis Menchov on the general classification, and will need to make up 47 seconds on the Russian in order to win in Madrid.
Heras explained that the last three days had been the most important in determining the balance of the first half of the Vuelta. "The key has been the time trial in Lloret, where the first part favoured me and there were no differences, but in the second, Menchov extracted time. Then, he defended itself very well in the mountains, though these climbs were not excessively hard and a strong guy can't be dropped."
Did you expect to be in this position after the first rest day? "Yes, because I know Menchov, who is not a rider that has come out of nowhere. We have tried to look for the failure, but it has been no surprise that he has not yielded in this terrain, because they are climbs that - if you are good - you can get over them on the wheel.
"My race has been very good [up until now], I did well in the prologue, also in the Lloret time trial, in spite of losing the leadership and then in the Pyrenees, I tested Menchov, saw that he wasn't yielding, and tried to save strength to use it on the harder climbs. But even better than me is the performance of the team. It has been super and has demonstrated that it is clearly the strongest of the Vuelta. We are the most aggressive and we are giving life to the race, no more, no less."
Heras said the outcome of the rest of the Vuelta will depend on Menchov. "If he doesn't yield, it's possible that we'll have a repeat of yesterday in Cerler, although Sastre said that he misunderstands both Mancebo and me. But if Menchov bends, the race will be much more aggressive and everyone will go hard without holding back."
Heras maintained that the 14th stage to Lagos de Covadonga will be the most important for him. "It's the only critical climb (and Pajares a little) like the Angliru that decided the race without a doubt in the other years... I am going to take advantage of the opportunities that I have."
After Lagos and Pajares, Heras said that the Vuelta won't have finished. "No, there are still the mountains of Madrid and Avila, but there the key will be the team. Us and Illes Balears have a better team than Rabobank and CSC...[Menchov] will find it very tough, because there the team is fundamental. I have great confidence in being able to do something, because I feel strong and, especially, very good mentally."
Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz commented, "The race is still open. It is true that there are 47 good reasons that the balance is not in our favour, but we will try to compensate for it." Saiz added that Liberty would try to crack Menchov: "Team discipline is fundamental, so we'll continue trying to do a fast race and to look for Menchov's failure."
As for Heras, Saiz said, "He looks good to me, very good. He comes to the finish very fresh and has a good mindset for what is coming up.
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