Juan Antonio always seems happy and ready to race, a rider who can’t wait to pin that number on his back. Let’s face it; anyone who can put that infamous crash with the TV car in the Tour de France’11 behind him and relish a new season with a new team with the expectations of a neo-pro must love cycle sport. This is what he had to say:
PEZ: What is the big aim for Juan Antonio Flecha for 2013 now he is with Vacansoleil-DCM?
This year will be the same as before, mainly the Classics. I’ll focus on the first part of the season; it will be Flanders and Roubaix and the second part is the Tour de France. I’m going there again and for a stage win.
PEZ: Roubaix or Flanders, do you have preference?
Do I have to choose one? I wish I could.
PEZ: If you could choose between them which would it be?
I don’t know, that’s the classic question that is in every interview, I don’t know. I focus on them both and I go for both as do all my rivals. You won’t find any rider who will say “I only go for Flanders” or “I only go for Roubaix” everyone goes for both and see what happens.
PEZ: Why do you love the Northern Classics so much?
I don’t know, it must be in my genes, sometimes you don’t know why you like something or why you fall in love, it’s just like that. I like the diversity of the Classics, I like the cobble stones, I like the way you have to race. The cobbled Classics are especially what I like
PEZ: It’s not normal for a Spanish rider to like the cobbled Classics.
Well, there was Poblet, he won in Sanremo and was there in Roubaix [Miguel Poblet, winner of Milan-Sanremo & Milan-Torino 1957, 2nd Paris-Roubaix, Milan-Sanremo & Tour of Lombardy 1958, 3rd Tour of Lombardy & Paris-Brussels 1959, plus stage wins in all the Grand Tours].
Flecha came oh so close to a big win at the Het Nieuwsblad ’11 just losing to Sebastien Langeveld in a close sprint.
PEZ: But there have not been many Spanish riders who aim at the Northern Classics, obviously they suit you and you love them.
Well, that’s the way it is. You look at cycling; it evolves and changes and I am an example. You don’t need to look at cycling like Nationalities, that’s a bit ridiculous to look at it that way, where you come from or where you were born. You don’t have to be Nepalese to climb Everest, many mountaineers have climbed Everest and its there and people have climbed it and it didn’t matter where they were born or where they come from. It’s a big, big thing to do and people want to do it, but they might be from the Philippines but going to Roubaix!
PEZ: I read you left Sky to give yourself more opportunities in the Classics?
No, I didn’t say the Classics, I said all of the year. I really felt my Sky time was finished and I felt that my time there had expired. If I had continued there, I probably would not have had the same visions, or my role in the team would have changed a little bit, or maybe they would have wanted me more as a domestique. There were many new kids coming up, they got Uran, they got Henao, they got Boasson Hagen, they got Wiggins, they got Froomy, they got Richie Porte. So what does that show, for most of the races that I was going, it was hard for me to get an opportunity, the team was right to go for one leader in every race and try for the victory.
It was right for Sky at that moment, but I didn’t like that, I was very proud to have been part of that (the Sky team), but I prefer to find other places where I could spread myself in the way I like to do it. I mean, not just doing my job and riding on the front and doing a lead out for a sprint. I enjoyed very much coming to that team and working for that team, but that was it, it was OK. I don’t want to look at the future and ending my career that way, I want to end it in another way.
In the end it’s your choice and what you like more and of course I’ve moved from the best in the World to another thing, a great team, but of course maybe not the best team in the World like Sky. It was hard because I joined Sky in its first year and I grew up with them, I mean I was part of this team as it was growing, so it was hard that way, my career is my career and the teams career is its career and if they don’t match they don’t match.
PEZ: You have to have your opportunities.
It’s about what you want, I didn’t want to race again in the future that way, I wanted to race another way.
PEZ: How have you settled in with the new team so far?
I’m very happy with Vacansoleil and I’m really enjoying the atmosphere in the team its self, everything is on level, it’s a ProTour team and there are young riders and some more experienced ones and I’m a rider of that group and I have no problem with that so I’m pretty much looking forward to that. There is a lot of commitment from everybody and all very professional.
PEZ: There are some good Young riders on the team.
Yea, I remember when I came to Sky, I got to know most of the young riders then and they became good riders.
PEZ: I interviewed Bert-Jan Lindeman last year when he turned professional with Vacansoleil, what do you think of him?
I didn’t race with him much, so it’s too early for me to talk about him, so far he looks a very strong rider, he reminds me a bit of me when I was a young kid, the way I was training. Let’s see, probably when I race more with him and get closer and see him more in the races I will have a better opinion.
PEZ: Do you ever think about what happened at Gent-Wevelgem and the crash in the Tour, because you are always a happy guy are they gone, past?
At one point yes; because there is nothing I can do and they are gone and that’s it. All I can do is to try and win again a stage in the Tour, that’s also one of the reason I left Sky, the changes for me to having that free role to go for a stage victory were impossible and after that crash I knew I could do it again, at least be there fighting for a stage victory and I want to do that and that’s the only thing I can do.
PEZ: So you don’t think about the crash?
The consequence of that crash of course, I could talk about still being afraid when I ride between the cars and being afraid when riding when car pass are the consequences of that crash.
That Tour crash.
PEZ: What ambitions do you still have for the rest of your career?
They are still the same; going forward, to go for my goals, maybe some different goals, at one point they will be the same goals, at some point different, like now I am very proud of my decision the leave Sky and aiming to go for my own goals. I really want to win a stage of the Tour again and I knew at Sky that wouldn’t be possible and now at least I have the chance to do it. Now I know I have the chance, I can go to the Tour and focus on it, I know I will also have to work for the team, but the chances of having a free role on a certain stage are going to be higher, so that’s for the future.
PEZ: Your 35 years old now, so how many more years?
Good question, who knows. I don’t feel I have to think about it. I know for a young guy you would ask a different question from an old guy like me, “OK till when are you going to ride?” I wish I could answer you that question.
PEZ: You were born in Argentina, but you now live near Barcelona, do you feel Argentinean, Spanish, Catalan?
Both, OK I was born there, I have my roots there, but I am also Spanish.
PEZ: What do you think of Catalan Independence?
I enjoy all cultures, I enjoy Spanish culture and I enjoy Catalan culture, I respect the people who want independence and those who don’t.
PEZ: What about the future of cycling after the Lance Armstrong TV “confession”?
I wish I could answer you, but I don’t know, I’ve not got a crystal ball. I honestly don’t think much about it. That’s life, scandals go on in life, many different scandals, could be cycling, could be football, politics, could be many things. There are scandals everywhere, and that’s the way it goes, but people go on.
PEZ: Could it be a reflection on society?
It probably is, it’s one more scandal and that’s it. I would rather have a good sleep than watch the TV at 3 in the morning and then have a good day training the next day. Of course afterwards if I want to know about it I can find it.
PEZ: Do you have any regrets over the years?
Regrets? No I always look to the future. You wouldn’t ask a young person that question, only an old guy, so I will answer that question at the end of my career.
PEZ: OK; I’ll ask you then.
Yea that would be perfect and I can look back and say “you know what, maybe here or maybe there.” But once it’s done, it’s done and it can’t help me to look at the past and have regrets about myself, it doesn’t help you at all.
PEZ: What do you think of this year’s Vuelta a Espaсa?
It’s really nice, I’m pretty much sure to be there and looking forward to doing it, the summit finishes will be great for the fans to watch.
A new team and more opportunities for Juan Antonio at the Classics and at the Tour, so more great action to come from the big man.