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An interview with Joane Somarriba
In the wheel-tracks of Indurain
With a record-equalling trio of wins in the Grand Boucle Féminine, top Spanish rider Joane Somarriba has two more goals in mind before she retires: the world's and the Olympics. Shades of Indurain? Almost, as she told Hernán Alvarez Macías just before the GP Plouay.
Joane Somarriba is not an ordinary rider. She recently won her third Grande Boucle Féminine (the women's Tour de France), joining just Jeannie Ciprelli-Longo and Fabiana Luperini in the list of riders who have made a who made a hat-trick in the world's most famous women's race. But Somarriba is still ambitious. She isn't hungry for more Grand Boucle victories though, but for an Olympic gold medal in Athens 2004. Like her compatriot Miguel Indurain, five-time Tour winner and Olympic gold medalist in Atlanta in 1996, she wants to retire after conquering the gold and listening to the Spanish anthem.
Cyclingnews.com reached her while she was training in France. She seems very pleased with her last major achievement. Her voice sounds very pleasant and kind on the phone.
Cyclingnews: How was it to conquer the Grande Boucle for the third time?
Joane Somarriba: It was a very special victory for me. Not only for getting in the competition's history, but also for many things that happened to me before and during the race. In the winter I didn't have a team and we had many problems to assemble our current roster. At that time everything was so complicated that I was thinking that I would not to ride the Tour. Thanks to the government authorities of my region and my sponsors the team got on the road, maybe a bit late, but we finally made it. The victory in Paris was also special because I rode with my homeland team. The other two victories were very important for me, but this last win was the sweetest because it will be my last Tour and for many other reasons. For the first time my husband was with me inside the team. He was beside me in all the stages and that was very helpful to me.
CN: Did you ever think during the competition that your victory was in danger?
JS: Well, to tell you the truth, I was in control of the race during the whole route, except during the first stage when the Russian rider (Olga) Zabelinskaia ran away. We, the riders, began watching each other, this woman escaped and nobody went chasing her. She arrived at the finish line more than six minutes before me and at that time I thought my final triumph was in jeopardy. Zabelinskaia was a real surprise - she rode a very consistent race. At the beginning I didn't know how things could go in the Alps. In the second stage I decided to go for it. I felt really strong in the mountains and it was there where I could prevail over my rivals.
CN: Why this was your last Tour de France?
JS: Because I will compete in the Olympic Games next year [Athens 2004 begins in August]. I think that I have a great chance in the time trial competition and I want to get to the top in this specialty. I know I need to work very hard. We decided that we will ride the Giro d'Italia specifically to prepare for the 2004 Olympics. I've already ridden the Tour and I have great memories of it after having won the third and the last one that I took part in. I think the French race is very tough, and that's enough for me in the Grande Boucle. I'm 31 years old and I don't know exactly what I am going to do in the future, but I guess I might retire after participating in Athens 2004.
CN: You want to become the female version of Miguel Indurain, don't you?
JS: In some way, yes, but his feats cannot be compared with anything. To win five Tours is really hard and Indurain did it. I am very pleased with my three victories because we all know is very difficult to win in France even once. In women's cycling it is even harder because we have a variety of problems concerning the team, the money and the sponsors.
CN: How can women's cycling grow and develop much more?
JS: Well, it's very complicated. I can not complain about the interest that the [Spanish] mass media focus on me. But the attention that I receive always depends on whether you win or not. I was third in the 2002 Tour. I had many physical problems and nevertheless I ended up on the podium. Considering the circumstances that I felt sick, I did a very good race. It was impressive for me, but in women's cycling if you don't win, the media don't pay attention to you. This time I prevailed and the mass media are supporting me and I'm very glad about that. However, the press should help women's riders much more because to be the first is extremely difficult and the journalists should reward a second or a third position, as they do with men.
CN: What are the plans for the rest of 2003?
JS: I will ride with my national team in the World Cup here in France next Saturday [Somariba was fourth - Ed] and then I will rest for a couple of weeks. After that, I will be preparing myself for the World Championship in Hamilton. I've seen the summary of this race and it has a very tough route. We'll see if I can recover from the great effort I made riding in France and I can arrive at Hamilton in a level high enough to get a good result. It's always difficult to reach a second peak of performance in the season, but I'll make the effort because the World Championship is something that I want to win. I got a bronze medal in the road race last year and this time I'll go just to win.
CN: Even though your cycling career will be ending next year, can you keep on trying to improve things in technical and physical terms?
JS: One is always learning and that's the fundamental thing. Not only in sport, but also in life. Every single race is a different experience. I never stop learning about myself and in that way I can obtain the best performance from my body. This is very important in the time trial competitions because one should suffer a lot and should know how to dose one's efforts. The truth is that learning time is never over. I want to improve much more in the time trial especially when it comes to aerodynamics, thinking of my goal that is Athens 2004.
CN: Thanks a lot and I wish you all the best in your endeavors.
JS: Thank you for calling me because we are used to going to Cyclingnews during the whole season. We like to visit your web site and we are kept very well updated reading your pages.