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Heras weighs up Tour disappointment

Roberto Heras was hoping for a strong ride in the Tour de France but instead was unable to approach anything like his top form. The climbing legs which carried him to three wins in the Vuelta a España and some fine performances in previous Tours were absent, leaving him to struggle on to finish 45th in Paris.

Although it was a big disappointment to realise that he wouldn't be a factor in the Tour, the strong motivation within the Liberty Seguros camp ensured he continued in the race. "My experiences in this year's Tour were not very good in terms of my personal expectations," he said, "But as far as the team goes, it has been great. We have been able to maintain a good group level and that pleases me, even if I haven't been satisfied with how I was going myself."

"Despite my being unable to ride for the general classification I finished the race, unlike 2004. The difference this year is that we have maintained a good team spirit and for that reason, there was no moment when I considered pulling out. Finishing the Tour is also a good way to prepare for the Vuelta a España, because the efforts made in this final week will serve me well in the future. So that was a factor, and so too the fact that I am a professional...for that reason I wanted to complete what I had begun."

In the early days of the Tour, Heras believed he was on course for a good ride. "Until the stage to Courchevel I felt very well and I had great hope for the mountain stages. I was optimistic until then, but on Courchevel things turned out badly for me. The situation didn't improve the next day on the Madeleine, either. I was better on the Marie Blanque and the Col d'Aubisque, but on the previous day I didn't feel good. One day things worked, the next day they didn't."

"It disappoints me that once again I have not reached the level that I wanted. But, looking towards the future, it won't have a lasting effect because I am convinced that you learn a lot from bad moments in life."

In line with that philosophy, Heras is already looking towards his next goal, turning things around for the Vuelta. He's shone there on many occasions, most recently when he equalled Tony Rominger's record of three overall victories in 2004. The Spanish climber now has a chance to go one better. "The record is an incentive, all right," he states, "But the true motivation for me is simply to be first once more."

"I think the Tour will serve as good preparation. Already I have begun to think about the Vuelta and every day it is getting closer. My objective now is to recover over the next few days and then to begin to my preparation. What happened in the Tour will not affect me, because in the same way that everything before the Tour does not count in July, I think it will be the same with for the Vuelta. At the Tour of Spain, I will set the counters to zero, because how things went a few weeks before is not going to affect my performance there."

When Heras is asked how the Vuelta suits his style better, he explains that there are several differences between the two races. "In order to really understand the variation, it is necessary to be first a rider and then to do both," he states. "But the two races have things about them which are very different. The pressure, the teams that take part and the mountains are an example. But it is necessary to experience the race from the inside to really understand what I'm talking about."

The fact that Heras tends to be in better form in the Vuelta than in the Tour means that next year, the team may try something different. During the Tour de France, Manolo Saiz said that his star rider may take part in the Giro in 2006, in the hope that he will come into top form for July.

"The thinking is based upon my experiences of the last few years, in which I have not been able to perform well in the first big tour, but do a very good second one," he elaborates. "I am better after making a first big effort. At the moment nothing is decided, but we will see next year. The Giro is a great race; I liked it very much in 1999, the year that I took part. It is not as intense as the Tour in its first ten days, and it has some very tough mountains that I like."

On the subject of the Tour, Heras feels that the retirement of Armstrong does not really mark the end of an era, because the others from his generation will continue. "But it is true that with him not racing any more, a very important chapter has closed," he says.

"It is going to motivate people, now that he has gone, but more so those who finished on the podium in recent years. Basso, Ullrich or Vinokourov. I was only fifth in 2000, so it's probably going to have a bigger effect on them."

"As regards my own desire to go back to the Tour, I will see next year. It is necessary to think about these things with a clear head during the winter. For now, it is too soon to say if I have a desire or not to go back to the race...we will see."

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