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Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz has confirmed his disappointment with the performance of team leader Roberto Heras and admitted that he is on the look-out for a rider who can lead his team at the next couple of editions of the Tour de France.
Interviewed on his team's website, Saiz said the majority of his team's riders "had performed up to or above expectations, but unfortunately Roberto Heras has not gone well on this Tour". Saiz said he thought that Heras had tried as hard as he could at the Tour and expects him to ride well in defence of his Vuelta title later this summer. But he also revealed that he had spoken to his team leader about riding the Giro instead of the Tour next season.
"We have to look for a rider for the Tour," said Saiz of the situation facing his team. "We have one in [Alberto] Contador, but he is still very young and needs to mature. For the good of our sponsors and the team we need a leader to carry us through the transition of the next two years, we need someone who is high up overall at the Tour de France. We are going to look for this rider, but it is another thing entirely finding someone who is available."
Saiz expressed satisfaction with the rest of his team, who, he said, would now be focusing on winning a stage. He described Australian sprinter Davis as having "improved since last year and he complements the team very well both for his work in the team time trial and by getting himself into escapes."
He described long-term Tour hope Contador as being "in the Tour's fourth rank. The first contains Armstrong, Basso and Ullrich. The second is Mancebo, Landis and company. The third is Kloeden, Moreau, Jaksche, Zubeldia, etc. Contador is very close to that third rank, as he has shown by his third place in the best young rider competition behind Popovych and Kashechkin, who are both three years older than him."
Saiz said of Joseba Beloki that he has ridden well but is now battling against extreme fatigue, which he sees as a consequence of the Basque not having completed a major tour since the Vuelta of three years ago.
Interviewed by AS, Heras admitted he could offer no explanation for his poor performance, confessing that he always seems to go badly at the French race. "The Vuelta gives me prestige and the Tour takes it away," said the three-time Vuelta winner. "I not going to be obsessed with this race any longer," he said of the Tour.
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