By Andrew Hood
Angel Casero won the 2001 Vuelta a España, but suffered through injuries and poor form in 2002. The proud Spanish rider is committed to returning to top form in the 2003 season and vows to challenge for the Tour de France podium. Despite problems at his Team Coast, Casero said he’s confident the team will be shining at the season’s major races. VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood caught up with Casero earlier this season. Here are excerpts from the interview:
VeloNews: What are your sensations now that Coast is assured of going to the Tour de France and facing Lance Armstrong?
Angel Casero: Armstrong is a big champion. He’s won four Tours already and every year he is more and more impressive. We have a lot of motivation to go back to the Tour de France and race against him. We have a team that is very, very strong and we are preparing everything for the Tour de France and later the Vuelta a España. We’ll see if we can make it difficult for him.”
VN: What’s more important for you, the Tour or winning the Vuelta again?
AC: For me, the most important is the Tour de France. I finished fifth in1999 and I’d like to improve on that. We are planning all my entire season to arrive at the Tour in the best conditions possible and hope to finish on the final podium.”
VN: What do you think is possible for you and Team Coast to beat Lance Armstrong?
AC: We have to arrive at the Tour 100-percent in shape and then look for a weakness in him, whether that comes in the mountains or in the time trial or perhaps even a flat stage. We have to look for him to have something go bad and then try to win in this exact moment.”
VN: But Armstrong has never really had a bad day at the Tour since his comeback, has he?
AC: Yes, but someday he will have a bad day. Miguel Indurain never had a bad day until ‘96 and look what happened. I believe is that the human body is not a machine and one day he has to have problems.”
VN: How is going with Ullrich with the team so far?
AC: So far, so good. He came with the team during the training camp in January. He’s very relaxed; a good person. He still has little problems with his knee, but we hope he can arrive at the Tour in great form. I believe that we, as two, are better than one.”
VN: So you will be sharing leadership of the team at the Tour with Ullrich, instead of working for the German?
AC: To begin, we will go as the two leaders of the team. Later, of course, the race will tell us who is going better, if I am going well, or Ullrich is going well. Maybe both of us will be going strong at the front.”
VN: Do you believe that your team will be strong enough to attack Armstrong in the mountains, because very few have been able to attack the Texan?
AC: Well, the only who has attacked Armstrong is Ullrich, but Armstrong has always been able to overcome him. I believe we might have to try beating him in another aspect of the race, perhaps in an attack in a flat stage or in the team time trial. We have to take advantage of any opportunities we can see.”
VN: You’ve had some good luck and some bad luck at the Tour. What is your motivation for this year’s Tour?
AC: Yes, I have a lot of motivation and this year my goal is to be on the final podium. For this, I am working hard all year long. I don’t have the problems I had in the past with my health, so these are optimistic days.”