The 2000 ‘Tour team trial victors, Spanish team ONCE are gearing up for a double whammy, with sights set on team and individual victory.
Their new yellow jersey weapon is Joseba Beloki, who came to prominence as the only rider to stick with Armstrong and Pantani during their epic struggle on Mt Ventoux last year. Team manager Oscar Saiz commented; “I am not saying we will win the Tour,” “but we enter with serious possibilities. In fact I believe we will be one of few teams with a manager who thinks that the team leader can win. Perhaps it is premature to raise Beloki as a Tour winner, but he did not reach the podium by accident. He is a good climber and a good time-trialist, but I believe he still has much potential for improvement.”
Beloki has already changed several aspects of his riding under the tutelage of the ONCE organisation. “They immediately measured me, lowered my saddle height and handlebars and changed the model of pedals. If you know a little of the psychology of cyclists you know we are very conservative, we resist change to avoid injuries. But I went to train after all these changes and I went better on the bike. Manolo also videoed me on the bike, showed me that my position was wrong, and of course we have also corrected that.”
“I started this year working very hard, with six hour sessions, and sometimes in the rain. But in the past, I’ve trained in Vitoria and it’s been cold. At least in Andalusia I have gotten drenched but it’s been warm. I believe it has made me stronger.”
So look out for a new damper, but faster and more efficient Beloki lining up to challenge Ullrich and Armstrong right from the Prologue gun when July comes around.