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An interview with Oscar Sevilla, January 16, 2007
Oscar Sevilla: Asking for a chance
Any rider named in the Spanish Operacion Puerto investigation will agree that 2006 was a year to forget, and Oscar Sevilla is no different. The Spaniard opened up to Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez about the hard times and what is in store.
The name of Oscar Sevilla appeared linked to the famous Operacion Puerto in the middle of last season. From that moment, things went downhill for the Spanish rider, starting with his sacking from Germany's T-Mobile ProTour team and later compounded by a ban against competing professionally.
The doping affair continued and now various cycling federations have allowed Sevilla, in addition to Santiago Botero, Ivan Basso, and some of the others named in the investigation, to compete in 2007. So for Sevilla, the search of a new team is his priority.
Before being named in the Puerto case, the man from Ossa de Montiel was riding well on the road. He won the second stage and the overall classification of Vuelta a Asturias last June.
Sevilla has endured an unusual winter this year. He stayed in his hometown training and waiting for an offer that would keep him in the international peloton. "I'm fine, I'm training," said Sevilla. "I am eager to get something from the future. I'm training, as always. [I'm] doing what I have to do - that is to train and wait for a chance in a team."
The rider's situation is enough to get anyone down and he admits that he is no exception to the rule. "There are better days, there are worse days. The truth is that, surprisingly, I'm dealing with this pretty well, especially to train," explained Sevilla. "I'm training many hours. I have a good group for training and that's important. I'm dealing with this pretty well though some day or sometimes I am a bit depressed, a bit more... I start thinking and realising time is going by and there is still not a clear solution, a clear future. Sometimes you wonder if you are going to keep on racing, if you are going to have a chance in some team, if they are going to call you. Then, there are days when you start thinking and you get a little nervous, but… I am staying calm, I am doing the right thing, working and waiting for the chance."
His pre-season may differ with those of the past, but Sevilla believes it could be a blessing in disguise, with the situation allowing him to train harder than ever before in a situation with relatively little pressure. ones he did in recent years when he was inside an outfit. "I had a difficult winter, I didn't go on holidays. I have been training, I have done time on my mountain bike, in the gym, swimming," he explained. "Maybe as usual, but a bit more, I worked more because I was calmer, with more time at home. That enabled me to do a good job and at the same time spending my time entertained doing what I had to do."
The extra push to be ready for an offer which has so far eluded the rider seems to be giving him added confidence. He trusts in himself and the effort he has put in. "Now I'm training very well, more than ever. I feel fine; I recovered from my injury that is what excites me more because I feel comfortable on the bike. My training now is to do many hours with the bike waiting for my chance. I think I won't disappoint anyone."
Instead of spending the winter holidaying like many of the other professionals, he has spent it training with a small group of professional riders in his Spanish hometown of Ossa de Montiel. Being with the riders has helped him through the difficult time .
Sevilla confesses that his current position is not one to be desired. In reality, he's jobless and has no team to compete with in the rapidly approaching season. But he still has hope. "I hope to get in a team as soon as possible, considering the season is on its way," he said. "I hope to sign in with some team to be able to compete this year."
One has to commend Sevilla's positive outlook in times of adversity. Despite being named in the Spanish authority's investigation and his resulting ban from competition and sacking from T-Mobile, Sevilla sees many positives in a year that others would consider a disaster. "It was good and bad. It was good, especially for finding victory again in Asturias and also for recovering the sensations I had during the whole year," he said, referring to a vertebra injury that plagued the rider during 2004 and 2005. "Everything changed in 2006, I started feeling an improvement, feeling Oscar Sevilla again and people could see that at road. In [Tour de] Romandie I already did very well, in Dauphine [Libere], then I won in Asturias. Up to that point, everything was very nice. It was what I dreamed of. I had so very good sensations. But at the moment the Operacion Puerto started it was the most ominous thing of the year and the worst of my sporting career. The calvary, the grief, the powerlessness during these months up to now."
Despite it being the darkest part of his career, Sevilla keeps everything in perspective. "The worst part has been very bad but I keep the sensations in Asturias with me," he explained. "The fact of my recovery, something I had seen very difficult to reach, but I finally achieved it."
It's clear that the Spaniard's dumping from T-Mobile has had an emotional impact on Sevilla, who had quickly come to accept the crew as a second family. "I think it was a bit sad, especially because I have spent a year and a half there. I got along in the team very well, I felt very well, they received me phenomenally," explained Sevilla, who described them as mates. "I didn't have a single adaptation problem with them. I was like in a family. I think I gave them my trust, I think that I gave it all for them, that I behaved like a gentleman. In the end, I got obsessed with that a bit, the way everything happened, but… It's in the past."
With that said, Sevilla's ability to see both sides of the story kicks in and he says he can understand the position the team was in. "It's not easy for a company like T-Mobile that they have to handle much media pressure and see their name defiled; it's rather difficult," he said. "It is truly over, and I don't want to think of it but maybe [I am] a bit sad. Maybe it could have been another way."
Passion and self belief is what drives this cyclist. Those traits have carried him through the toughest time of his professional career and now they are driving him towards finding a new team for 2007. While he has yet to sign anything, Sevilla has held discussions with several teams about this season. "Now I want to ride, no matter where, no matter how," he states. "I want to demonstrate that Oscar Sevilla is still alive, that Oscar Sevilla has much to say, that I'm completely recovered. I think that the one who gives me the opportunity won't regret it."
Sevilla's manager is holding discussions with both Spanish and foreign teams including an Italian outfit. While he is taking it one week at a time and dealing with the uncertainty over his future, he admits hope could soon begin to fade. "I'm dealing with it pretty well, but time is going by and that hope could be fading," he explained. "So, I don't know it to be over, I want it to remain, but I must reach some agreement with some team."
Among reports in the media are is that the Aqua e Sapone outfit is interested in recruiting Sevilla together with Germany's Jan Ullrich. "Yes, it is an option," admitted Sevilla. "It would be good, but so far there were just discussions. So many times one talks about many things, so until the signature comes… that is what counts. I have to be patient. There are discussions that is the important thing and then the only thing that remains is to reach an agreement. I don't care where."
While he has never won a Grand Tour, a near victory at the 2001 Vuelta a España, where he finished second, has helped the rider's status as one of the most beloved and admired riders in Spain. His sympathy and good manners with the fans are appreciated in his homeland. But how did the fans behave with him these months? "Very well," Oscar responded. "It was truly amazing. I always felt very beloved, very acclaimed and now more than ever. There have been many persons, the ones who sent me letters and calls. They made me stop in the road to cheer me up, to tell me not to lose my smile, not to lose hope, to keep on my way. For me it was what gave me strengths; seeing people were with me. That was really great for me and has been maybe the engine that took me to keep on training, to keep on taking care of myself, to keep on thinking that I want to ride. It has been very, very important."
It is the timeof year when millions of people around the world make New Year's resolutions. Oscar Sevilla has just one resolution this year: "I made a toast because 2006 went away and I asked for riding again, for an opportunity. I don't ask for more. I think I am a person who knows what he wants: I want to ride."