2006 Tour de France winner Oscar Pereiro bowed out of professional cycling at an emotional homage to his colourful career during the Criterium Internacional de la Comunitat Valenciana.
Although a recent operation to correct a long-standing problem with his right wrist meant that Pereiro was unable to take part in the day’s racing, the 33-year-old Spaniard was his usual relaxed and easygoing self as he mixed with fans and signed dozens of autographs despite heavy bandaging around his wrist.
“I’ve enjoyed my last year of racing with Astana, but it is time to move on and let my place in the peloton go to a younger rider who wants to make a name for himself in the sport,” Pereiro told Cyclingnews.
“I’m definitely not going to be coming back again next year. I’m not sure exactly what the future holds but I’ve been enjoying doing commentary work on cycling and also other sports such as football, and I would like to do more of that.”
Tribute was also paid to Valencia rider José Enrique Gutiérrez, who was a colleague of Pereiro’s on the Phonak team. His best result was his second place finish to Ivan Basso in the 2006 Giro d’Italia, before both men were implicated in the Operación Puerto blood doping scandal.
Basso was among the group of professional riders who took part in the racing at the Valencia criterium. Resplendent in his pink jersey as 2010 Giro winner, the Italian was edged out for victory in the elimination race by Caisse d’Epargne’s David López. However, the Italian’s better finish in the earlier points event gave him the overall title on the day.
As is always the case, Valencia event organiser Javier Castellar came up with an interesting challenge for his star performer. After having Oscar Freire compete against a racehorse and Alejandro Valverde lose out to a dog team in previous editions, this time Basso was pitted against Spain’s national inline speed skating champions, who also beat the Italian in a sprint.
Once the racing was completed, Pereiro, Basso and Gutiérrez were paraded down the finishing straight in the back of a vintage Mercedes. All three were called up onto the podium, where Pereiro and Gutiérrez made farewell speeches.
Pereiro, a regular visitor to the Valencia event, paid his own tribute to Castellar, presenting him with the Astana jersey he wore during the Tour of Poland, which turned out to be his final competitive appearance.
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