The Madrilian from Movistar Team will be the road captain of the Spanish national team, entirely focused on bringing Óscar Freire into the legends of cycling in Copenhagen’s road race
In the season of a second renaissance for him, with a stage victory and overall lead in the Vuelta, a remarkable Giro and good presence in all races, Pablo Lastras will complete his schedule -except for his beloved Tour of Lombardy- with the cap in the Worlds road race on Sunday. Aged 35, and ten seasons after his only participation in the elite races -he also competed as U23 and junior-, the Spaniard will return to the national team and will take a road captain role he managed like no one can do. Recovered from pain in his knee limiting his performances in the final week of the Vuelta, the Movistar Team rider will be one of the key riders so Óscar Freire can take his fourth world title in Copenhagen.
First of all, representing your country, which is a big responsibility, but it’s also something I’m not scared of, because it’s my second Worlds appearance as pro. Plus, a reward for my good season. While taking the leader jersey in the Vuelta was a reward for all my career, this is the prize for a big year. It makes me really happy, just like did returning to the Vuelta after so many seasons, to get back to the Worlds and find pure cycling. The World Championships are the queen of one-day races, the atmosphere is superb and the resound of getting into something on it is second to none. Sincerely, I really thought of doing the Worlds all year. I was into the shortlist for the three previous seasons and I got out of the team last year even with my luggage packed while I was having legs to do well, as I showed with my third place in Lombardy, so it was time for me, but it’s exactly the year in which the route suits me the least.
My body’s reactions after a 3-week stagerace are incredible. Bio-rhythms go down, and after the Vuelta I spent five days only eating and sleeping. Nine, ten hours during the night and a 2-hour siesta. That’s where you realize how extreme the tiredness after the race gets. I was feeling physically equal or better to the start during the last week of the Vuelta, but I ended up with a sore knee due to the crash in Talavera. I was very limited in condition and also worried, so I took advantage during last week to recover it through massages and osteopathy. I did an important test for my knee on Sunday and it responded well. I already knew that I had the pace on my legs, so the sensations are good. At the end, I think it was a good choice not to travel to Copenhagen until Thursday, because the weather is so changeable there I couldn’t get my preparations done properly. For me, after the Worlds there’ll be still one of the biggest goals of the year ahead: Lombardy, a race I truly love.
The only objective is making history with Óscar. Last weeking we found an example with our basketball team, and we’re also set to do something into the sport’s history and get Freire as the only rider with four world titles. We know we will be favourites, but have to ride as we weren’t. The good point is that this year, the nine of us know how to do well in one-day races and control the course… back in Zolder in 2002, the goals and the race were quite the same, and without the mechanical by Óscar, he would have ended into the podium for sure. That time I learned a lot about how to ride the Worlds, how focused you have to be… That mental work will be crucial, because the start will be really fast and we will have to be attentive. It seems like I will be the one, along with Garate, to take responsibility for the team orders when the coach cannot decide. I get to Juanma really well and we both are respected into the bunch. It would be a huge charge for any others, but I feel comfortable with that role.
I didn’t want to see the route, but I heard is really flat and with an uphill finish that might suit Gilbert, for instance. We will surely have to stay into the breaks, but always riding with our sights behind. Hearing to what people at the boxes say, any gesture, any order. The fact that the Worlds are so flat will be a bigger risk for crashes. Everyone feels strong and believes to have chances, and that means more risky racing. For me, and surely for Óscar too, a hillier course would have been better.
Into order: Freire, Gilbert and Bennati. I don’t have any doubt on appointing Óscar as first. When September comes, he transforms into another rider, just like in March with Milano-Sanremo. It’s his month, he’s one of those gifted to do well here and we’re totally confident on him because he knows how to get prepared for it. People said that he wasn’t doing well in the Vuelta, but I saw him in the day before giving up, during a hard stage due to the route, the pace and the heat, and found him super.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS APPEARANCES
2002: elite (159th RR)
1996: U23 (35th RR)
1994: junior (11th RR, 9th ITT)