Xavier Tondo Interview Part II: Passionate for the sport
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Xavier Tondo Interview Part II: Passionate for the sport

by Shane Stokes at 9:18 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Spaniard reveals unexpected racing ambitions

Xavier Tondo Read part one of our interview with Xavier Tondo.

Morale boosted by a sixth place finish in the Vuelta a España, Xavier Tondo is unwinding after a successful season with the Cervélo Test team. As mentioned in part I of our interview, he will be moving to the new Team Movistar for 2011, and is expected to be one of the top riders with the Spanish squad. His results from this season suggest he can aim for a podium place in the Vuelta and Giro, or probably a top ten place in the Tour de France.

Tondo had been in contact with team manager Eusebio Unzue in the past, but nothing ever materialised in terms of a contract. That all changed this summer, when a peculiar coincidence saw the two work out a deal. Tondo details how that worked out, saying that it was literally a crossing of paths which renewed contact between them and led to his new opportunity.

As a result, there is a chance that the team could be built around him during some of next year’s big races.

VeloNation spoke to Tondo on the eve of the Tour of Lombardy, discussing these and other topics. His enthusiasm for the sport was one of the most noticeable aspects of the conversation: read on to see just how taken he is in cycling.

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VN: As you haven’t done many Grand Tours, do you think it is possible to reach your peak later than many other riders do?

XT: I hope so. For example, before the 2009 Vuelta, Eusebio Unzue said that Xavier Tondo was one of the favourites, ahead of Valverde and Basso. At that point, I was thinking, ‘I don’t know, maybe it is too much for me.’ But then I started to think that maybe it can happen in the future. If I finish sixth in my first Grand Tour, perhaps I can keep improving.

It is difficult to know for sure how it will go. I know that in the Tours of one week, I can also get a good result. We will see the calendar for next season, and what Eusebio wants from me.

VN: How did your new contract come about?

XT: I was talking for a lot of years with Eusebio, but for one reason or another, he didn’t give me an opportunity. Afterwards, he found a new partner [Movistar will sponsor for his team from 2011, replacing Caisse d’Epargne]. I didn’t talk with him as I knew he was busy.

But then I was in Sierra Nevada after that crash in Poland when I broke my collarbone. A rider from Andalucia advised me that the stage of Valdepeñas de Jaén was really tricky and complicated. I thought then that that I would go to check it, as I do with all the big races. I always like to see the big stages before. This day, fortunately, I met Eusebio on the road. I was in my car and I saw him in his.

I called him, and I said, ‘hey, what happened, I caught you!’ He said, ‘I caught you also!’ We started to talk and I wished to him congratulations about the new partner. We didn’t talk about the future that day, but a few days later he called me and said ‘I want to make you an offer.’

VN: So you will be one of the leaders of the team, so I guess that will be a nice opportunity….

XT: I don’t know [smiles]…I think we need to know exactly which riders we have. Maybe he is fighting for other good riders for the GC, and we will see. Ultimately, I think that if the legs are good, I will be in the right place.

For example, this year, when I signed for the Cervélo team, I think they didn’t believed in me for the GC in the Grand Tours. But finally I had good results, and I think that Eusebio will give me an opportunity now. You never know - maybe I will go to a race as the leader, and then another rider will be better than me. If so, that is not a problem.

Xavier TondoVN: What races will you target next year?

XT: I don’t know…it doesn’t matter. For me, one dream is to race in the Tour of Flanders, but I think that Eusebio doesn’t want to give me an opportunity. Since I was young, I was dreaming to race that one. It’s certainly a good race, but in Cervélo it was impossible because we had a super team for the Classics.

Maybe it can happen in Movistar. But I don’t know - I will do whatever they want me to do.

VN: Why do you like Flanders so much?

XT: It is part of the history of cycling, as is Roubaix. I have the dream to race there one day, but maybe I need to go step by step. I know that it is really complicated for me to do a good race, but I can only try. And why not? I can also enjoy a nice day there.

VN: Your fascination is unusual, because normally the Classics are not very important for Spanish riders…Do you watch those races on television?

XT: Every year, every year! These are amongst the races I like most. Of course, I want to race San Remo or do things like the Tour of Lombardy, but for me, one of the dreams from when I was young was the Tour of Flanders.

VN: How did you first begin cycling?

XT: It was in 1993. At this time, there were a lot of people who started to like cycling because of Indurain and Perico [Pedro] Delgado. They took up the sport as a result, and some of those people continue now as professionals.

VN: Next year, perhaps you will have the chance to ride the Tour for the first time?

XT: Maybe... I just want to race some good races. I hope that two big Tours is possible in one season, I don’t know which Eusebio wants from me. I’m not sure what my chances are of doing it - I think the Tour is more difficult to get a good result in, so for this reason, if I do the Giro and the Vuelta, that is not a problem for me.

But of course I dream of racing the Tour. Maybe it is complicated to get a big result there, though…the Vuelta might be easier.

VN: He’s contracted to Saxo Bank now but Eusebio has said that he wants to sign Alberto Contador when he becomes free. Obviously the situation is complicated for him now – what do you think will happen?

XT: I don’t know. I only know what the media says on the internet and on the TV. I think I am like other people, we really don’t know what can happen. We will see.

VN: What will you do now at the end of the year?

XT: Maybe I go now to the Vuelta a Chihuahua in the next week, then just enjoy the time with my friends and family. On Monday I will go to the Six Days of Amsterdam to see my friend Theo Bos. I really like track races also – one of the things I want to do in the future is some track races. This weekend is the Spanish track races, but it was impossible for me because Lombardy is the same day.

I have a good relationship with Joan Llaneras – he always talks to me, that can be good for me to enjoy also and to try to do a good result. I want to ride in some track races but without ambition, only to enjoy them.

Anyway, I will go to Amsterdam with Alex Sans [Vega]…we will go for one or two days on Monday. I was in other Six Days, Zuidlaren in the North of Holland in 2008, and Theo has invited me to come to Amsterdam.

VN: It is unusual because not many Spanish riders who do well in stage races talk about Classics and the Six Days….

XT: Yes, but I really like these. I know that not too many Spanish riders go to Six Days or ride the Classics. But Llaneras was an influence for me….I train a lot with him. He was the world champion seven times and twice Olympic champion.

I really like track. I saw the track world championships two times – in Bordeaux in 2006, and in Mallorca 2007. It was amazing!

Back in 2006, on the first day I went to the track, the Keirin was on and Theo Bos won. It was an amazing race. This year, he was my team-mate, as well as being my room-mate in the Vuelta a España and also in the first training camp in Portugal. He was good, one of the best riders on the track…I spent a lot of time with him and it was great. He is a very good guy.

VN: Away from cycling, what are your interests?

XT: The problem is that I really like cycling! My hobbies all rotate around cycling. My friend, for example, bought a new frame…he wanted to put the parts on it. He called me, asking ‘can I come to your home?’ and I said yes, come on. And I changed all the stuff for him.

Another example is that I changed the hubs and put in the spoke into my training wheels. I also change my mountain bike around… I really like that. In the winter, I meet my friends to go mountain biking. I really enjoy it, it is my life.

VN: So you are different to many pros, who see it only as a job?

XT: Well, if there is a race on TV, I watch it like a fan. It doesn’t matter if I am not there, I’m interested. Some friends say to me, ‘but you are a pro rider, and you still enjoy it when you see some races?’ But what can I do? It is my passion….
 

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