Heras tasting the fourth Vuelta

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros)

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) (Image credit: Hernan Alvarez)

By Hernan Alvarez Macias in Alcala de Henares

Take him or leave him, but Roberto Heras (Liberty-Würth) will not change. The overall winner of (almost) four Vueltas doesn’t have that appealing charisma the cycling fans and media love: He’s rather quiet and doesn’t show his feelings much, whether he he wins or whether he loses. In today’s stage 20, no one expected that the rider from Salamanca would finish second by just 0.577 seconds. Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana) took the win today, but Heras surprised everyone - he was considered to be a typical Spanish climber, but now, he can be seen as a versatile rider with definite time trial capacities.

Heras dedicated today's success and his imminent fourth overall victory to his team and his family in the post-race press conference in Alcala de Henares. About his outfit, he said, "There were many difficult stages to control the race like the one in the mountains of Madrid [stage 17] or Avila [stage 18], especially the Madrid stage. The advantage that we got in Pajares [stage 15] was important and this one is maybe the calmest week of the four Vueltas I achieved."

Heras talked about his impressions of this last few days of the Vuelta. "The stage characteristics weren’t for a climber, but it’s the last week of the Vuelta and strength is very important. A specialist like Plaza won, but I had the mentality to win. I almost won, it was so close. But I’m confident thinking of the future because of what happened today."

The Salamanca cyclist also said that his improvement against the clock was largely due to his team. "Here at Liberty Seguros-Würth I improved my time trialling a lot. And the truth is that it’s a very positive factor for me."

About the Vuelta he said, "At the beginning we had doubts. We saw a very strong [Denis] Menchov, but we knew the Pajares stage [15] was the queen stage and I felt very good. I couldn’t get rid of Menchov before, but I had confidence in my capabilites. We haven't seen a stage like Pajares in many years. I think this brings back the fans' excitement, that we really need," he added.

Meanwhile, Heras is not sure if he will race the 2006 Vuelta. "We will enjoy this fourth victory," Heras said, also talking about his team. "In the winter we will see if there’s a fifth or if we go for other goals."

His best memory of this Vuelta will be "after the Colladiella with my team waiting for me after the descent. Caruso, Vicioso, Scarponi, Beloki, they were all waiting for me. We had the best team and our strategy worked well," Heras commented, still clueless about the reason why he performed so well in the Vuelta not in other races like the Tour de France. "The Vuelta gave me everything," he shrugged.

Alexander Vinokourov will become his teammate in 2006, and Heras was happy about that. "Our philosophy is comradeship. He will be a team mate, we will be mates as the word says; he will be welcomed," concluded Heras.

Heras in the Giro d’Italia

Liberty team director Manolo Saiz assured the media that Roberto Heras will ride the 2006 Giro d’Italia. "Someone laughed at me when I said it, but I think that Roberto is a rider for second efforts," said Saiz. Therefore, he will participate in the Italian Grand Tour in 2006 and then decide if he rides the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España afterwards.

"It’s a race I rode just once but I liked it very much," Heras said about the Giro. "It’s a very nice race. I think it has a very demanding mountainous part, then the time trials are not too long. It’s a race I liked the year I went."

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