It will be hard for some bike fans to believe given that Pedro Delgado still looks almost as fit and sprightly now as he did in his pomp, when he became a two-time Vuelta a España champion and won the 1988 Tour de France, but the former Reynolds, PDM and Banesto star turns 50 today.
Still a regular at top level bike races in his role as a pundit for Spanish national broadcaster TVE, Delgado is interviewed at length in Thursday’s edition of AS. He reflects on how he and his brother sold copies of the local newspaper in their home city of Segovia to buy their first bike and how his passion from the sport developed from there.
That victory, though, was clouded when Delgado delivered a "false" positive for probenecid. "I took probenecid just after that Alpe d’Huez stage. We used it to assist draining from the kidneys. It was also used to mask anabolic steroids, but if I’d wanted to hide something in that way I would have had to have used it every day and it only appeared on that one. Besides, the product wasn’t banned by the UCI, although it was by the International Olympic Committee. But we didn’t have it on our banned list," he explains.
The following year, of course, Delgado missed his start time for the Tour prologue and ended up losing the title largely because of his error. "It’s been said that I arrived late at the start because I was having a coffee or because the police stopped me. But it wasn’t that. I went to warm up far from the press and the fans. I met [Système U rider] Thierry Marie and asked him what the course was like, and by then I’d gone too far from the start and ended up setting off 2 minutes 40 late.
"That night I couldn’t sleep and in the team time trial I was a broken man and my teammates had to wait for me. But I never felt as well prepared physically as I was that year. I could have ridden on one leg. We all went to the Vuelta to ride for Indurain and when he broke his wrist I took over leadership of the team and won the race," says Delgado.
And how does it feel to be 50? "I don’t have any special feeling about it. My spirits are very good and that’s what’s important."