Vuelta Insider: ROBERTO HERAS Interview
Today’s Vuelta stage was a cracker. And it’s even better since like Liberty Seguros has allowed PEZ great access to their riders during this race. We got one-one with race leader Roberto Heras after today’s tough mountain stage. So how is the two-time winner coping with having everyone gunning for him once again?
After his team chased down a long break, Roberto finished 3rd in today’s stage and took some more time out of rival Alejandro Valverde. But it’s not near over, even with just 4 stages left, as Santi Perez is only 73 seconds back, and Valverde within reach at just over 2 minutes.
ND: Is it difficult to find the motivation so late in the season for a three-week stage race?
Roberto Heras: For me, absolutely not. Not for my team either. We train hard and place a lot of importance all year on this race. We’re at home in this race and that’s good motivation.
ND: You entered the Vuelta as a favorite. Does it motivate you in a special way that this is the biggest race in your home country?
RH: Well, I’ve always liked this race. I like being a favorite too. It’s nice that everyone thinks so highly of you. Actually, I like all the races in Spain but this is the most [important]. It’s the biggest and most important.
ND: Today’s stage finished at the ski area of La Covatilla, which is very close to Bejar, your hometown. Did you want to do something special today for your family and friends? Also, do you plan on seeing them tonight or will you just stay at the hotel?
RH: Well I know all the roads and train on them regularly. I knew that today it would be important to take time on Valverde if possible. It was too bad though that Santi Perez was able to stay with me. No, tonight I’ll be staying at the hotel with the team.
ND: When you attacked on the Calar Alto about a week ago, what sensations did you have when the majority of the other favorites couldn’t hang with you? And afterwards when you pulled on the leader’s jersey for the first time this year?
RH: Well, I was surprised that Valverde was going so well, but as guys start dropping it makes you feel good. It motivates you to go hard and keep it up. I was extremely happy to pull on the gold jersey. It was a feeling of everything paying off. I was doing what I came here to do. It was very important for me and the team.
ND: In the uphill time trial at Sierra Nevada were you scared to have lost time to Santi Perez and Valverde?
RH: Not too much, although Valverde surprised us with the amount of time he was able to take out of me. As for Santi Perez he surprised us on the previous days. We didn’t expect that kind of ride from him and we really weren’t watching him as we were the other favorites.
ND: When you attacked today with about 6km to go, you were able to drop Valverde and Mancebo but not Perez. Are you happy with the time you took back on them even though Perez actually took some time from you?
RH: Yes, although it was too bad that Perez was able to take some time today. We did what was necessary and put some time into Valverde.
ND: There are 4 stages left, a fairly long one, a hilly day, a mountain finish, and the final time trial. How do you plan to approach these days? Would you like to have a little more cushion going into the time trial?
RH: We’ll be conservative and watching everyone. We’ll want to make sure we limit everyone else’s chances over the next couple of days of taking any time from me. As far as the time trial, I’ll have to conform with whatever I have going into it and just do the best I can.
ND: Last year you won the Vuelta with U.S. Postal. Now you are leading this edition with Liberty Seguros. How has your integration into the team been?
RH: Very good. From day one it has been very easy. I knew a lot of the guys on the team before which helped and this is a tight team, which is good too.
ND: If you win the Vuelta a third time, I believe you will be the only three-time winner and with three different teams on top of that. If you win can we start calling you “Mr. Vuelta”?
RH: Well, actually I’d be tied with Rominger if I win a third time. However, Mr. Vuelta doesn’t sound too bad, but let’s what until it’s over to see.
With that we wrapped up the interview. It was Roberto’s turn on the massage table. He left me with the feeling that today was just another day in the office and that he didn’t want to get too excited until it’s all over. Only a few more days. Mucha suerte!