PEZ: Were you happy with your season, Rubens ?
Rubens: In general, yes – I had good form from the Coppi – Bartali until June when I won the national TT championship at 48 kph, beating Martin Elmiger by almost a minute.
PEZ: Team Type 1, tell us about that.
RB: I just felt it was time to try something new – a fresh vision of cycling.
PEZ: Do you have your 2011 programme, yet?
RB: No yet, we’ll find out at the start of December; I think that mine will be a mostly European programme although I will be in the USA for races like the Tour of California. I will continue to live in Switzerland, though.
PEZ: Do you think that Team Type 1 will get an entry for a Grand Tour?
RB: There is a chance but it depends on the UCI rulings on Grand Tours and under what terms Pro Continental teams are allowed to ride them. I think that there is more chance of a ride in the Vuelta than in the Giro; it’s very difficult to get a ride in the Tour that’s only for the biggest teams in the world and I think that between the Giro and Vuelta we have a better chance for the Vuelta. If we did a get a ride there then that would be a good situation because it means you come out of the race with good shape for the end of the season.
PEZ: You’ve been riding the Giro with Diquigiovanni these last few years – but do you miss the Tour?
RB: Oh yes! Watching the most important race in the world is very difficult – the Tour is every rider’s dream to ride. It’s a beautiful Tour this year and there a couple of finishes which would really suit me – especially the one at Herbiers. But I think too that it will be a more open Tour this year with more contenders for the GC.
PEZ: But no prologue.
RB: I think that sometimes this is a good thing; the prologue is a spectacular event for the fans but it’s good that the sprinters and strong riders get an opportunity to lead the race early, too.
PEZ: The team time trial is very short.
RB: I think it’s a good distance, it’s long enough so that gaps can be opened but not so much that a rider’s chance of the overall can be ruined.
PEZ: What about the higher points for intermediate sprints?
RB: A good question – but if you look at the last few years it’s always a good sprinter or strong rider who takes green, I think that their teams will exert more control and it will be the same riders. The mountains bonifications are more interesting, they are changing it will be more difficult for a rider to take points early on in the small climbs then defend that to the finish – I think that it is a good thing.
PEZ: The toughest stage?
RB: I think stage 18 to Galibier, the final climb is long and the French asphalt is sticky and slow- couple this with the fact that it’s Alpe d’Huez the next day and you have two very hard days back to back which is always a difficult proposition.
PEZ: Are there any stages where you can relax a little?
RB: The Tour is always stressful, there is the wind, small climbs which are harder than they seem in the route book – you always have to be careful.
PEZ: Is there a stage which is likely to spring a surprise?
RB: This is liable to be on a transition stage where a group gets away and a strong rider in it takes time which is hard to get back – like Nocentini, last year.
PEZ: It’s a long first week – nine stage before the first rest day.
RB: This is why you have to be in the best shape at the start, you can’t ‘ride yourself in’ – but it’s very difficult to keep that shape for three weeks.
PEZ: The Alps come last, a good or bad thing?
RB: I’ve ridden Tours in which we did the Alps first then the Pyrenees, but I’ve also ridden Tours where we did it the other way – a lot depends on the individual rider. The Pyrenees have shorter but steeper climbs whilst the Alps are longer but not as steep – I think it’s better for the gruppetto that the Alps come last!
PEZ: Could it all come down to l’Alpe d’Huez?
RB: It’s possible – it’s all down to who recovers best from the Galibier.
PEZ: There may be no Contador present, that makes Schleck favourite, but what about Menchov?
RB: He’s won two Vueltas and a Giro so he’s a big contender, yes – and he’s the type of rider who surprises.
Rubens knows a thing or two about the Tour de France.
RB: He’s young and getting better every year; he won the Vuelta – but there were no major contenders to worry about. A lot depends on his programme, if he has to ride the Giro then I think it will be very hard for him to do well at the Tour; look at Evans and Basso, this year – and I think the Giro will be even harder next year.
RB: I think a podium is possible, the fact that the time trial is only 40 kilometres works in his favour but he would need to have time to his advantage from the mountains.
Robert Gesink – a real threat in 2011?
PEZ: Who will surprise us?
RB: I think that the finishes on the early stages are all to Philippe Gilbert’s advantage – he’s not a final GC contender but I think he can lead the race early on.
There are always surprises, Evans can’t be counted out and Richie Porte could be be a big one – especially if Contador does not ride and he has the team at his disposal.
With thanks to Rubens for his insights, we wish him well at his new team.