Heras hoping for better luck

Roberto Heras has won three Vueltas but it is now five years since his best finish at the Tour. Desp

Roberto Heras has won three Vueltas but it is now five years since his best finish at the Tour. Desp

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Winner of three editions of his national tour, Spaniard Roberto Heras is hoping for a significant change of luck at the Tour de France. A remarkable fifth in his first Tour in 2000, the Liberty Seguros rider has failed to make a notable impact since, except when working as Lance Armstrong's domestique de luxe in 2002.

Incredibly for a rider widely regarded as one of the best climbers in the sport, Heras has yet to win a stage in the Tour, let alone come close to repeating that fifth place, and the signs haven't been good in recent weeks that that trend is about to end. Both Heras and his Liberty team have struggled after a very strong start to the season. So poor is the form of the Spanish team's leaders that it now seems more than likely that three-time podium finisher Joseba Beloki will not start.

Interviewed by Marca, Heras acknowledged that his team's performances had been "very bad" in recent weeks. "However, it's not all that worrying because the mountain stages at the Tour are still almost a month away," Heras pointed out, adding: "I think that we will go there in good form and that we will have a good Tour because this team has the quality to be at the front."

Heras said his personal goal is to "be involved in the overall battle, which is what I have missed out in the last few years because the luck I've enjoyed at the Vuelta hasn't been with me at the Tour. I need a bit of that, and then my goal is to always be involved in the action."

Heras admitted that his former team leader Armstrong starts as the race favourite, but also picked out Alexandre Vinokourov, Levi Leipheimer and Santiago Botero as riders to watch. It went without saying, he added, that Jan Ullrich, Iban Mayo and Ivan Basso would also be likely challengers.

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