Dauphine TT win gets Botero back in the groove

Santiago Botero took the honours in the Dauphine time trial, but Lance Armstrong will have been sati

Santiago Botero took the honours in the Dauphine time trial, but Lance Armstrong will have been sati
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Santiago Botero is back in the winner's circle after two winless seasons wandering alone in the cycling wilderness. For a rider who won the world time trial title and eight races in 2002, it was a long time waiting to get return to the premier league of cycling. How did he manage to endure two suffering seasons dogged by injuries, poor form and even worse motivation? A stiff upper lip and stubbornness to overcome difficulties which, he believed, were only temporary... "Patience," Botero explains. "The help and support from my family and friends. They were the ones who helped me ignore the comments from those people who said I should quit cycling. In this sport, it's so hard that when the body isn't 100 percent, it's difficult to maintain the spirit." Signalled by the overall title at the Tour of Romandy in May and the demanding 47km time trial victory Wednesday at the Dauphin, the blonde-haired Colombian said his sudden comeback is nothing new. "Last year I could already see things were on the rebound," he said. "I was able to finish races, I was eighth at the Olympics. I trained hard over the winter in Colombia and I feel strong, almost too strong. We'll see if the form lasts into the Tour." The Tour, of course, is where Botero made his name, winning stages, capturing the best climber's jersey and finishing fourth overall. After that breakthrough performance, T-Mobile picked him up on a hefty contract that soon proved a bust. "They placed a bet on me and I couldn't deliver the results - bad luck," he surmises. "T-Mobile was a great team, one of the best organisations in cycling. It wasn't anything that they did." Botero points to nagging stomach and digestive problems that kept him from recovering completely from hard efforts. Crashes and overall poor form rounded out the black list of inconveniences that marred his two-year stint on the German team. Ex-Phonak director Alvaro Pino, the man who nursed Botero along in his early days at Kelme after he turned pro in 1996, was the first to show interest. Despite the Hamilton-Prez blood doping controversy costing Pino his job, the Phonak connection was made. Does Botero feel as strong as in 2002, when he beat Lance Armstrong in a Tour time trial? He says yes. "I am a more complete rider," Botero says. "I am stronger this year in the mountains, maybe a little less so in the time trial, but the idea is to be more well-rounded for the GC." Phonak's GC hopes for the Dauphine lie in a three-pronged attack, led by Botero, Floyd Landis and Oscar Pereiro. There's strength in numbers and Botero has no problems sharing the load. "I'm a rider who's tasted success at the Tour and I want to get back to that highest level," Botero said. "There are no problems between us. We will work for whoever is the strongest rider in the race." If Botero keeps riding like this, this looks like one bet he won't lose. Stage three results: 1. Santiago Botero (COL, Phonak Hearing Systems) 47 km in 1:00:06 (46,9 km/h) 2. Levi Leipheimer (USA, Gerolsteiner) @ 1 sec. 3. Lance Armstrong (USA, Discovery Channel) @ 26 sec. 4. Floyd Landis (USA, Phonak Hearing Systems) @ 39 sec. 5. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ, T-Mobile) @ 1:00 6. Oscar Pereiro (SPA, Phonak Hearing Systems) @ 1:09 7. George Hincapie (USA, Discovery Channel) @ 1:11 8. Marzio Bruseghin (ITA, Fassa Bortolo) @ 1:14 9. Jos-Ivan Gutierrez (SPA, Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne) @ 1:16 10. Sebastian Lang (GER, Gerolsteiner) @ 1:19 Overall standings: 1. Leipheimer in 11:11:20 2. Botero @ 12 sec. 3. Armstrong @ 30 sec. 4. Landis @ 42 sec. 5. Hincapie @ 1:09 6. Vinokourov @ 1:12 7. Pereiro @1:14 8. Gutierrez @ 1:27 9. Bruseghin @ 1:36 10. Lang @ 1:43
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