By Andrew Hood
Oscar Pereiro – the man poised to be named Tour de France victor in the wake of the Floyd Landis doping scandal – hasn’t had much time to train lately.
After giving an endless stream of interviews (more than 200, by his count) and a half-dozen press conferences not to mention a string of public celebrations, Pereiro has hardly had any time to think about what’s in store for the rest of the season.
While he waits word from cycling authorities on the Landis case, Pereiro is committed to race the Vuelta a España, set to start on Saturday, August 26 in Málaga. “I am going to race it with a lot of pride and energy, but I don’t know how I have recovered from the belting I took during the Tour,” Pereiro said in an interview with the Spanish sports daily AS. “I just don’t know.” Pereiro will line up alongside Alejandro Valverde, who crashed out of the Tour in the third stage with a cracked collarbone. It was Valverde’s early departure that opened the door for Pereiro to ride as team captain, but he said there’s no problem with Valverde returning as the team leader. “It will be nice to race [the Vuelta] with both of us. If one of us fails, one can help the other,” he said. “I view the future wide open and with hope. Everything I do from now on will be easier, with the support of the media and the fans.”
Pereiro has publicly said he already “feels like the winner” of the Tour after Landis’ B-sample came back positive for irregular levels of testosterone. While Landis fights to clear his name, the Spanish rider said he harbors no hard feelings for his former Phonak teammate. “He is my friend and he won’t stop being my friend,” Pereiro said. “Don’t get me wrong, he deprived me of living a very beautiful day, but for him things are going bad enough for him as it is. It’s a bitter feeling. I would have liked to have been there with my teammates, but it’s not worth it to dwell on the past.” Pereiro assured that he’s never had any problems with doping and the fact that he’s never failed a doping test “is the best proof of that. … We all start the same, with the same options and there’s a line you cannot cross, because the controls are working.” Pereiro remembered his bad day in the Pyrénées, when he lost nearly 30 minutes to Landis and stage-winner Denis Menchov on the road to Pla-de-Beret, describing his day “between impotence and the bad feelings, I felt like I had been thrown to the ground.” Two days later, he regained the lost time and moved into the overall leader’s jersey, but his best memories from the Tour were riding in the final time trial with the yellow jersey on his back. “Even though I lost it, it gave me a lot of inspiration to race in the yellow jersey,” he said. “I felt a mix of joy, emotion, agitation – it’s indescribable.” Contador loses consciousness after fall
Spanish rider Alberto Contador (Astana) was held overnight into a hospital in Burgos after falling on the evacuation following Wednesday’s fourth stage of the Tour of Burgos in northern Spain.
Contador, who finished fifth in the stage behind winner Iban Mayo (Euskaltel), fell about six kilometers on the descent off the Lagunas de Neila climb. He later returned to the team hotel where he lost consciousness. He later received a brain scan and was held overnight for observation in the hospital.
In 2004, the rider fell hard in the Vuelta a Asturias and later suffered a blood clot in his brain that nearly killed him. He underwent surgery and returned safely to the sport the next season at the Tour Down Under, where he won a stage.
Mayo back in winner’s circle
Iban Mayo, the troubled Euskaltel-Euskadi climber, won Wednesday’s big climbing stage to pull into the overall lead going into Thursday’s finale at the Vuelta a Burgos.
Following his unexpected departure from the Tour de France, Mayo entered the Burgos tour in an effort to regain confidence ahead of the Vuelta a España. Mayo attacked on the hardest part of the climb, about three kilometers from the finish, and soloed in for the victory.
“I am content with to have achieved a victory as prestigious as this,” Mayo said. “After I abandoned the Tour, I felt the need to win return my confidence. I attacked to win the stage and I found myself with the prize of leading the overall standings.”
It’s Mayo’s second win on the season. He was a hard climbing stage to La Toussuire in June at the Dauphiné Libéré, his first victory since winning that race in the 2004 season.
Mayo’s future with Euskaltel is uncertain. The team has offered a contract extension to its troubled star, reportedly at a lower salary than he currently earns. The rumor mill has Mayo headed toward Saunier Duval in 2007, but nothing will be decided until after the Vuelta.