Josè Luis Rubiera knows a good read
(Photo: Road Bike Action)
Today is Josè Luis Rubiera’s 36th birthday. Born January 27th, 1973 in
Santa Eulalia in the Asturia region of Spain and nicknamed Chechu, the
Spaniard is well-known to American cycling fans. The likeable Rubiera
comes from the Asturias region of northwestern Spain, a rugged
mountainous region of coal miners, fishermen and farmers that a fosters
a tough, hardy people. Chechu still lives in Asturias, not far from its
largest city Gijón with his wife, Laura, a practicing attorney. Josè
Luis was given his nickname Chechu by his mom from a character she
likes on a Spanish telenovella (soap opera).
Rubiera, an excellent climber and strong all-around rider was one of
Lance Armstrong’s key lieutenants for five seasons (2001-2005) with US
Postal Service and Discovery Channel, supporting Armstrong in five
straight Tour De France wins. "I had decided to retire last season”,
Rubiera told RoadBikeAction.Com,
“but at the Vuelta, when it was a sure thing
that Lance was coming back, Bruyneel said to me: ‘Wait, because Lance
wants you to ride with him again.' That’s why I stayed on the bike.”
Rubiera suffers on Simoni's wheel on his way to a stage win in Val Gardena at the 2000 Giro d'Italia
(Photo: Yuzuru Sunada)
Chechu has ridden the Giro d’Italia 6 times (10th
with Kelme in 1997, with a stage win in Falzes / 8th in 2000 with a stage
win in Selva di Val Gardena) and will provide precious help for Armstrong
in this May’s Giro, a race the American has never ridden. Rubiera, who
started his 2009 season at the Tour Down Under told RoadBikeAction.Com “this
winter I’ve trained harder than usual because I need to be ready when
Lance is. I need to be up front with him. When a great champion like
Armstrong comes back with such a strong desire to race, without making
money, it’s also a special motivation for his teammates.”
Rubiera tackles the Dolomiti climbs in the 2007 Giro d'Italia
Road Bike Action:
How did you get started in cycling? Was it through someone in your family?
Jose Luis Rubiera:
I started at about 8 or 9 years old. I had a little
racing bike and loved to ride. No one in my family was in into cycling
at all. But I loved it right away. I had a little jersey and shorts and
would ride my bike all over even when I was young. Sometimes I even
rode from my town, Santa Eulalia, as far as Gijon, the main town in
the region. It was 30km away but I would just go there.
There are a lot of hills in Asturias! Wasn’t it hard riding for a little kid?
Not really because my town was near the sea and the road to Gijon
was flat enough until the end which was a steep 3km climb up to the
town. But I still made it!
Maybe that experience helped you later in your career when you won
climbing stages in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana?
Chechu "Like A Moto" at 2008 Vuelta A España
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)
So fast forward a few year to this year’s Vuelta. You were riding well this season…
Yes, I had really good form, especially at the Vuelta and I have to
say that it’s the best form I’ve had for a few years. I was going like
What did you think when you started to hear the rumors that Lance Armstrong was coming back to cycling?
Of course I couldn’t believe it...the rumors started in the
peloton and we scoffed at that. Then one night as we were having diner
after the stage, a journalist came up to us and said “Armstrong is
coming back to cycling. It’s on the internet.” We thought it was a big
joke and started saying 'oh Fignon is coming back too and why not Johan
(Bruyneel) he can get back on the bike too!' but then it turned out to
be true and we were all really surprised. But we had a race to win
(Vuelta) and so we needed to focus on that.
At that time I had already decided to retire at the end of the season
even if I was in really good form. I already had my retirement party
planned and everything! But then Johan asked me if I wanted to ride
another year, no pressure, just think about it...and he said that Lance
was wondering if I wanted to ride another year, to ride with him. So I
decided to not retire...like that! (snaps his fingers).
What did your wife say?
She was the first person I called...I have to admit I was nervous;
but she said 'well I understand that you have to do what makes you
happy so I am behind you.' You know, that was hard; my wife has been so
supportive of my career and I am away from home a lot. We were looking
forward to spending more time together. I feel like I owe her a lot
and really appreciate her support. But when a great champion like Lance
calls you, that is really something special. I have been fortunate
enough to ride for him from 2001 to 2005 on US Postal and Discovery and
those were special times. So now we'll race together in 2009 on Astana.
It is a very special motivation to be with Lance again.
Chechu you have a lot of experience with Lance in the Tour de
France, but Armstrong has never done the Giro. On the other hand, you
have an excellent track record at the Giro d'Italia (6 participations:
10th with Kelme in 1997, with a stage win in Falzes / 8th in 2000 with a
stage win in Selva di Val Gardena). And it's a tricky race, a lot
different than the Tour de France as you know. So how do you think
Lance will do at the Giro?
I think he'll do really well there. Lance is a great rider with a
lot of experience. He'll have a very strong team around him with me and
Popo (Yaroslav Popovych) and (Chris) Horner and others. We have looked
at some of the course of the Giro d'Italia together. This year
there are not that many steep climbs like the Mortirolo which is better
for old guys like us. We're like diesels you know, keeping a steady
pace. It's the changes of rhythm and the steep parts that are tough for
us. But the Giro d'Italia is a beautiful race too and I think Lance
will be very inspired by his first Giro.
Chechu brings it at 2006 Vuelta A España
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)
We hear that you recently had a mountain summit named for you in Asturias last October.
Well it was a surprise and a big honor. The climb is called Coto
Bello, a mountain summit in Aller, south Asturias. I found it while
training and it wasn’t paved but when it was, I pointed it out to the
organizers of the Vuelta a Espana. It was originally supposed to be the
finish of Stage 14 last year, but it got moved to Fuentes de Invierno.
Coto Bello is a nice climb, not really steep but perfect to enjoy
without suffering. It was a surprise for me when they called to ask me
if I would agree to put my name (to the summit). I really don't think I
deserve it, but it is really nice.
So will you now retire at the end of the 2009 season? I understand
your program will include the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta, but no Tour De
We'll have to see...I’m not sure what lies ahead. And I have a
project I am working on your readers in America might be interested
I am opening a tapas bar in Oakland, California called bar Lata;
that means "the can," like a tin can. It’s at 4901 Telegraph Ave., at
49th Street, near Claremont Ave. It’s in the Temescal neighborhood. We
will open in February.
Wow how did that happen? Oakland is a long way from Gijon!
Well, first of all I really love San Francisco...it is a really
fantastic city! I was there a few times to race the SF Grand Prix. That
was a really great race, too. So in 2003, I met a guy from Barcelona
named Daniel Olivella when I was there. He owns a great Spanish
restaurant in San Francisco called B44 on Belden Place. That's a cool little street in the Financial
district of San Francisco filled with good little restaurants. Anyway
we got to know each other over the years and just hatched the idea to
open a tapas bar. There are not that many good Spanish places in the
Bay Area and we are going ahead with Bar Lata tapas bar! Olivella
told the SF Chronicle recently "I'm going to try to be authentic
Spanish," says Olivella, who is, of course, authentically Spanish by
birth. Bar Lata backers include his partners in B44 and Chechu Rubiera,
a Spanish professional cyclist. Olivella has taken over the old Silver
Lion and has transformed it into the casual 60-seat Bar Lata, with a
communal table, an all-Spanish wine list and moderately priced wines by
the glass. The menu will be tapas heavy, with perhaps 10 hot selections
and 10 cold ones, three or four paellas and a few small main courses.
Chechu proudly told Road Bike Action
“Originally I was going to be at
the opening we have planned for January 2009 but now I will be in
Australia racing at the Tour Down Under. After that we have a training
camp in Santa Rosa, California so maybe I will invite the Astana boys
down to La Lata for some tapas!
Chechu opened his 2009 accounts at the Tour Down Under in 58th overall,
where he had a crash but nothing serious. He told his fan website,
, “No fue nada, chapa y pintura como cuando
tienes un golpe en el coche, je je!! (It was nothing, scratches and
dents, like after a fender-bender.)
We are going much faster than last year and I need to help Lance with
the wind, so I'm quite tired at the end. " Rubiera told the
International Herald Tribune in an interview in Adelaide “It is like a
time warp in some ways, but there are a lot of new faces out here.
Lance seems the same to me. Still as motivated, and though it's a big
circus out here, it's a big circus that is good for the sport. We're at
a time economically where sponsors are difficult to find, and Lance
brings in the media and the interest at a moment when cycling really
Chechu and friend at 2009 Tour Down Under
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)
After an Astana training camp in Santa Rosa, CA. from February 1-10,
Rubiera will ride the Tour Of California, then some stage races in
Spain, then the Tour of Romandie as a warm-up for the 2009 Giro
d’Italia which starts in Venezia Lido on May 9th. Meanwhile, we must
say to the friendly Asturian “Feliz Cumpleanos, Amigo Chechu”.