PEZ: How was the Lagos de Covadonga, Bert?
Bert: Really steep! It’s the first time I’ve ridden-up there and it’s a very hard climb, the problem was that we had to work hard for Cadel all the way to the base of the climb – at that point, we had averaged 42 kph. I finished 18 minutes down so there was no problem with time cuts, but it was a hard day, with no respite.
PEZ: Did you see any wolves up there?
Bert: No, but the guys in the team car said that they did.
PEZ: Is Cadel happy with his current standing? (7th at 1-28)
Bert: He’s very motivated to do well and of all the climbs in the Vuelta, that was the one that suited him the least, but despite that he kept guys like Sastre and Menchov within touching distance. If he can repeat his time trial form from the Tour, then he must be in with a good chance of being on the final podium.
PEZ: What are your personal goals for the Vuelta?
Bert: For the moment I’m struggling a bit in the mountains, but I’m hoping that my form catches-up. I’m hoping to catch a good break later-on in the race, after the Andorra stage. Obviously I have to work for the team in the early stages and that makes it hard for you to get into a strong break because you are a bit tired. A lot too, depends upon how Cadel performs in the first time trial, if he does well then we will all be working for him.
PEZ: What’s the team goal?
Bert: The team goal is always to win , but that’s easy to say in a race like the Vuelta, if Cadel makes the podium then I think the team will be happy.
Bert catches up on the ‘news’ of the day…
PEZ: There’s been a lot of talk about Robbie McEwen not getting a ride.
Bert: I would have been nice to have him here, because for sure, he would have won a stage, but management calls the shots and it’s not up to us riders.
PEZ: Who has impressed you, so far?
Bert: Freire, I think that if he quits before the end it will show that he’s ready and comfortable for the Worlds. I think he’s the number one favourite for Stuttgart. The stages he’s won have not been flat, today there was around 3000 metres of elevation, it was a tough parcours. That’s why we’ve not seen a super Boonen or Petacchi, the stages are too tough – that’s why we saw Bettini winning.
PEZ: Do you like Spain?
Bert: Yes, it’s almost always good weather, which is very important, especially since we’ve had such a shitty summer in Belgium. The roads are good too and the fans are hard-core cycling fans; they bring little cans of Coke to hand up to you, it’s a nice gesture from the Spanish people.
PEZ: How have the hotels and food been?
Bert: Average to good, we had a lovely steak last night, it’s certainly much better than you get on the Tour de France. You hear a lot about fine French cuisine, but I think that’s only in specialist restaurants, the food you get on French races in general is never great.
PEZ: How’s the mood in the peloton after the news that Gerolsteiner are pulling-out?
Bert: It’s crisis again, a lot of riders will be out of contract at the end of this season and are worried about their future, You can see the stress in certain riders – they are trying to prove themselves so they can get a contract for next year. My opinion is that 2008 will be a year of transition and 2009 will be a whole new situation. The ProTour licences expire at the end of 2008, so nothing is certain, but in one year we’ll know better about new sponsors and whether current sponsors will continue.
PEZ: Thank you, Bert, we better let you get to massage.
Bert: No problem, before I go, I’d just like to say that I’m feeling good, I’m not tired and I’m looking forward to parcours that suit me.
Good news form the Big Guy, we’ll talk to him again soon.