By Kirsten Robbins in Pasadena, California
Astana domestique Jose Luis 'Chechu' Rubiera confirmed his planned retirement at the end of the 2008 season. Known for his domestique skills in the mountains, the Spaniard spent seven years with the US Postal turned Discovery Channel between the years 2001 and 2007, having turned professional in 1995. Rubiera was one of several riders to move from the defunct Discovery Channel squad with team-manager Johan Brunyeel to the revamped Astana outfit.
Following many rumours, Rubiera was expected to retire at the end of 2007, but according to the climber he had always intended to compete in 2008, if a suitable contract presented itself.
"It was a misunderstanding that I was going to retire last year," said Rubiera. "Last year I couldn't find a team and at the end of the Vuelta, I was looking for a team. The situation of cycling was really bad and I was not able to find anything.
"I had a contract with Discovery, but thought that if I was not able to keep racing because I couldn't find a team, then I was prepared for retirement because there was no there option," he added. "Johan called me with the option of riding for Astana, but I have always planned I will retire after this year."
Rubiera feels his season to date with Astana has been successful, with a good start at the ProTour's opening round, the Tour Down Under, in Australia and now at the Tour of California.
With the season starting on a high already for Rubiera, the rider is hoping for one more piece of good news in the form of a Tour de France invite for his squad. Astana hasn't been invited to any of French race organizer ASO's races - including the Tour de France - but Rubiera is hopeful the decision will be reversed.
"The team is really going well and I've been having a good time at the races away from Europe," said Rubiera. "As of right now we are not invited to the Tour but I hope that will change, if not I will focus on competing in the Vuelta."
After 13 years of racing, Rubiera believes that physically it is feasible to continue for another two or three more years due to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for years. However the Spaniard wants to change his focus to starting a family in the next couple of years. "I'm 35 and healthy and so maybe I could do a couple of years at the same level and quality of racing I'm doing now," he said. "But I think it is also a good moment to stop and to enjoy life."
Despite having just nine victories listed on his palmares since turning professional in 1995, Rubiera is one of the sport's super-domestiques. In addition to the Spaniard's efforts to sure up Levi Leipheimer's second Tour of California win last week, Rubiera was seen as a large contributor to some of Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de France victories.
"I think it was a long career and I was lucky with my health, but I wanted to take the time to do different things with my life, to stay with my family," he explained. "Time at home and try to find a career using my past studies as an engineer. I don't have children and that is another big reason for my retirement."
After turning professional in 1995 with Artiach, Rubiera claimed his first major victory two years later by conquering the Giro d'Italia's Stage 19. The Spaniard claimed his second Grand Tour stage victory three years later when he returned to Italy's Giro and won Stage 13. The 2000 win would be Rubiera's final Grand Tour win, despite coming close again when he finished runner-up on the Giro's 202 kilometre Stage 3 in 2006.
Rubiera also enjoyed glory on American soil when he claimed the Tour of Georgia's mountains classification in 2005. Rubiera's latest victory came in Asia during Discovery Channel's final season, where he won the Tour of Qinghai Lake's Stage 8.
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