By Andrew Hood
José Luís “Chechu” Rubiera – who rode in six of Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France teams – said he’ll decide this week whether he’ll continue with his career.
The veteran Spanish climber already told VeloNews during this year’s Vuelta a España that he was facing difficulties finding a new contract for 2008 following the dissolution of Discovery Channel.
With job offers scarce, Rubiera said he would rather not race than to compete on a smaller team with a low salary. So far, he admits that the market is tough.
“The situation is pretty bad. It isn’t so much that offers aren’t coming in, it’s that there are hardly any offers at all,” Rubiera told EFE. “I want to continue with a strong team or I won’t race anymore. It’s possible that this year was my last as a professional.”
Rubiera, 34, had a contract to ride with Discovery Channel in 2008, but the team folded at the end of this season after a new sponsor could not be found.
Former Discovery Channel team manger Johan Bruyneel has since come out of retirement and taken over the reins at Astana, bringing with him ex-Disco riders Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, Janez Brajkovic, Tomas Vaitkus, Sergio Paulinho and Benjamin Noval. So far, there’s no place for Rubiera on the new-look Astana squad.
Riis ‘proud’ to keep Schleck brothers
It’s not often to see deals for more than two years, but Team CSC’s Bjarne Riis is betting that the Schleck brothers will produce a Tour de France win between the two of them sometime in the next three years.
Fränk and Andy Schleck signed contract extensions that will keep them in a Team CSC uniform through 2010.
“What Andy did this year in the Giro was incredible. He can win a big tour some day,” Riis told VeloNews. “And Fränk, too, he will only get better. They are the two big riders for the future.”
The Luxembourg pair both began their respective professional careers with Riis, with Fränk, 27, joining the team in 2003 and Andy, 22, in 2005.
After steady progress in his first three years as pro, the elder Schleck enjoyed a breakout season in 2006 with wins at Amstel Gold Race and an impressive Tour de France stage at L’Alpe d’Huez.
The younger Schleck is already being hailed as a future Tour winner after his tremendous grand tour debut at the Giro d’Italia this year, finishing second.
“They’re two of the most important profiles on our team and I anticipate them winning some of the biggest races in the future,” Riis said on the team’s web page. “It’s unusual to make such long extensions, but with riders of this caliber, with this kind of talent and such great prospects, it’s actually a privilege to do so. They both began their professional careers with us and have steadily developed into huge profiles. To me, Fränk and Andy are the perfect picture of modern cycling sport, so I’m extremely proud to have them both on the team for another three years.”
Heras finding few options
Roberto Heras – the Spanish climber who saw his 2005 Vuelta a España victory stripped after he tested positive for EPO – might choose retirement instead of a comeback without any guarantees he’ll be able to race in the major events.
His two-year racing ban ended last month, but Heras said he’s considering retirement in the face of few options for a return to cycling at the highest levels.
“I have offers from a variety of teams, but looking at the way cycling is these days, it takes away some of the motivation,” Heras told L’Equipe. “Cycling is divided and the atmosphere isn’t so good right now. As it is now, I don’t have a lot of motivation to continue.”
Under ProTour rules, he won’t be allowed to sign with one of the top teams for another two years. While Heras could find a spot on a team aiming for a wildcard spot, but with his named linked to Operación Puerto, he knows he’ll find a cold reception among race organizers looking to protect their events.