José Luís Rubiera — one of Lance Armstrong’s most loyal and dependable teammates — will not return to the peloton in 2011.
Rubiera, 37, says he’s ready to move on and spend more time with his family. Known as “Chechu,” the 37-year-old Rubiera finished Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia in what will be his final professional race. A homage is planned later this month in a criterium in Oviedo in his native Asturias in northern Spain.
“I’ve been lucky that someone else didn’t decide when it was the right time for me to leave the sport,” Rubiera told the Spanish daily Marca. “It will be a dramatic change in my life, but I am not worried about leaving behind competition. I am weary of being away from home and want to dedicate more time to my family.”
Rubiera postponed his own retirement at the end of the 2008 season when Armstrong decided to return to the peloton. The lithe climber joined Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service in 2001 and became one of Armstrong’s most reliable workers during the Texan’s heyday.
Rubiera was not included in the past two Tours with RadioShack, something he said he was happy about, especially the conflictive 2009 Tour that saw Armstrong and Alberto Contador sniping at each other.
“I was lucky to not have gone to the 2009 Tour, I missed all the problems between Lance and Contador,” Ruberia explained. “If I would have had to race for Lance, I would have done it. And I would have done the same thing with Alberto. It would have been complicated to have had each of them at your side.”
So far, it appears that Rubiera has not been mentioned in the growing investigation into alleged doping practices during the U.S. Postal Service era. Rubiera’s name has not been among those mentioned by U.S. investigators.
Rubiera did, however, say he believed Contador is innocent of allegations that he doped en route to victory during the 2010 Tour de France. Contador is under pressure after testing positive for traces of clenbuterol and faces a possible two-year ban.
“Contador is a very clean rider and I confide in him and his honesty, even if it’s difficult,” he said, adding that a string of high-profile doping cases in Spain doesn’t bode well for the sport. “It’s sad and worrying, but cycling will not disappear. Only one cheats, but everyone pays for it. It’s an unfair situation and I think they should also follow all the trainers, doctors and managers, who often times induce one to cheat.”