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By Luis Barbosa and Andrea Bianco
Colombian rider Victor Hugo Peña talked to cyclingnews, before flying to Arizona to the team presentation for the team sponsors. He was in a relaxed and talkative mood and gave us some insights about the past season with the American team.
Cyclingnews: How was 2001?
Victor Hugo Peña: I felt a very privileged rider to be in the same team of a great champion like Lance and to race for the best team in the world. It was like making a dream real..
CN: Did you comply with the team expectations?
VHP: Unfortunately not as well as expected. My role coming into the team was to stay with Lance in the mountains and I couldn't do it. This really made me mad about myself. After that my role was to help him in the flat stages and in the team time trial, where thanks God I felt strong and did my job.
CN: In 2000, you had a good season, won a time trial stage in the Giro; did you think you would perform at the same level?
VHP: Yes, and I felt disappointed not to perform well last season. I thought I could have a good year, but it didn't materialize. I was never sick, but I couldn't reach the same fitness.
CN: What was your role in the Vuelta?
VHP: To stay with Roberto (Heras) in the mountains. I couldn't, so I worked tons in the flat.
CN: And this coming season?
VHP: I must show that I can perform well in the mountains and give my best for the team. One of my objectives is to make the team for the Tour. At the moment there are five riders selected and six of us to 'fight out' the remaining four spots.
CN: After the team meeting in Arizona, when will your season start?
VHP: In Italy with the Laigueglia in February.
CN: A lot of travelling, do you miss your family?
VHP: Who doesn't? I talk to them often and that feels good.
CN: Your dreams for 2002?
VHP: Nice dreams. To reach the podium in the Vuelta and to win a time trial.
CN: Cycling in Colombia, is it a financially healthy sport?
VHP: It doesn't show much good health, mainly because of lack of sponsorship.
It gives satisfaction to the fans with the 8-9 riders racing in Europe with wins in stages in the big Tours and the bronze medal with Santiago Botero at the worlds.
There are some good projects like Colombian team Orbitel 05 getting into second division and the alliance between the Institute of Sport of Colombia and Selle Italia to have second division team called Colombia-Selle Italia.
But we need more support with juniors and under 23 riders, because plenty of talents are lost for lack of it.
CN: A name, a word… Armstrong.
VHP: The best.
VHP: The rival
VHP: The new idol for Colombian fans.
CN: Colombian cycling.
VHP: Nostalgia of a country.
CN: A slogan for Victor Hugo Peña.
VHP: El Tiburon (the shark) will be back!!
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