Heras out, Chechu sad, Beloki back
Roberto Heras quits after the Alpe, Rubiera upset by fans on the Alpe, Beloki close to agreeing deal
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Roberto Heras has become the latest of the pre-Tour favourites to quit the race, with the Spaniard opting to return home to sort out a knee injury rather than start Thursday’s stage in Bourg d’Oisans. Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz said that Heras was “in no condition to continue”. After feeling ill for three days, Heras said: “I don’t know what’s happened to me, but I don’t feel that I can continue like this. I came here with a lot of hope for this Tour, but that quickly disappeared. The results just haven’t been there, and I can’t explain why.” “We tried to allow Roberto to recuperate for the Alps, but we could not force him because if he did it affected his knee. It’s a small disappointment, but there will be better times ahead,” said Saiz, whose team have underperformed over the past three weeks. Heras, who lost 5-38 in the time trial on Alpe d’Huez, has already flown back to Spain via Geneva. * In common with anyone linked to or perceived to be linked to Lance Armstrong, US Postal domestique Jos Luis Rubiera received a lot of abuse during his ride up Alpe d’Huez yesterday, and the popular Spaniard was extremely disappointed at the finish. “I’ve not seen anything like it,” ‘Chechu’ told AS. “I’ve never received so much abuse during my sporting career. I don’t understand it. Before, fans used to come and encourage every member of the peloton, but now it seems that things are changing. “Perhaps fans are tired seeing so many Armstrong victories, but that doesn’t seem sufficient reason to me to dish out so much abuse. When I used to go and watch racing I had my favourites as well and used to cheer them on, but I also did the same for the rest of the peloton.” * This has not been a great race for Spain so far, but there is some better news for Spanish race-followers as Joseba Beloki is reported to have reached an agreement to ride for the Saunier Duval team for the rest of this season and in 2005. According to the El Correo newspaper, Beloki, who parted from the French Brioches La Boulangre team in June, had received an offer from Quick Step, but is leaning towards a deal with Saunier Duval because they are a mainly Spanish-based team. A final agreement is due to be signed in Bilbao on Thursday evening.