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An interview with Xavier Florencio, August 12, 2006

Xavi Florencio shocks the favourites - and surprises himself

Going into Clasica San Sebastian, Bouygues Telecom rider Xavier Florencio was not have been considered a favourite - or even an outside contender. But the 26-year-old played a canny race and unleashed a long, powerful sprint to take the biggest win of his career. Shane Stokes was at the post-race press conference to find out more about a rider the peloton will be watching more closely in future.

"Hey! I could get used to this..." - Xavier Florencio talks to the press
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Bouygues Telecom rider Xavier Florencio took over an hour to finish with the post-race protocol and make it to the media room for his press conference, but the 26 year old was still smiling broadly when he arrived. It was little wonder, as Saturday August 12 will go down as the biggest result to date of his professional career.

Florencio has been a professional for several years but his efforts in the finale of the Clasicá San Sebastián far surpass anything he has done before. Before his Basque success, he had achieved placings such as fifth in both the Eneco Tour and the Tour of Valencia, as well as 18th in the Tour of Flanders and 21st and 25th in editions of Milan San Remo. More recently, he was second, eighth, eighth and ninth on stages of the Tour de l’Ain and finished a strong third overall.

Yet nothing comes close to what he achieved on the Avenida de la Zurriola on Saturday, beating the likes of Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas), Andrey Kashechkin (Astana Wurth), as well as Mirko Celestino (Lampre, sixth), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, eighth) and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel, ninth) to the line. As might be expected, he was ecstatic.

“The sprint was very nervous. With 600 metres to go I went for it. It worked out very well and I am very happy to succeed and take this win,” the beaming Spaniard told the press after the finish. “This result is very satisfying for me. I was the leader of the team for this race and I waited all day for my moment. When I reached the finish in a group of 50 riders I was ready to go for it, and it worked out perfectly.”

Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

It was, he said, something of a dream for him. “If somebody told me this morning that I was going to win, I would have laughed,” he admitted.

Florencio’s win came down to a few different factors. Firstly, it depended on the recapture of Yon Bru (Kaiku), who went clear just over 50 kilometres into the race and stayed away for 120 more. Secondly, it drew on the failure of another break to hold on in front, namely the high-firepower trio of Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Carlos Sastre (CSC) and recent Tour of Burgos winner Iban Mayo (Euskaltel). And thirdly, it required a very strong and clever finish from Florencio himself, who hit the front with well over 200 metres to go and who proved that he was clearly the best rider in that final gallop.

When asked how he had felt earlier in the race, he gave the impression that he suffered a little in the initial part. “I was surprised because the first hour was very fast,” he said. “But when there were only 50 riders left that was okay for me. When those riders [Menchov, Sastre and Mayo] went clear they didn’t get very far so that was fine, and once it came down to the sprint, I was confident.

The moment of victory
Photo ©: AFP
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“I was very happy in the lead up to it because all the time two or three riders [on his team – ed.] were working for me. That helped me to feel confident. It was not very clear what would happen, if the breakaway riders would be brought back. But I was lucky – my team-mates were there and they did a lot for me, bringing me to the finish line and ensuring it was a sprint.”

Florencio was then asked about his roots in the sport. “My family were very passionate as my father was a professional and so too my brother,” he disclosed. “Now many of them do cycling, so this [win] means a lot.”

The victory was also special due to his history in the area. “I was living here as an amateur before. I was in Beasain, staying here a long time between races. There were thirteen or fourteen riders in the group and of those, perhaps 11 became professionals. We were all friends!”

The podium
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
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Riders from Spain generally ride for Spanish teams and so it wasn’t surprising that someone asked him about his choice of squad. Florencio explained how his move to Bouygues Telecom came about. “I was with Fuenlabrada before and I was becoming nervous after the Vuelta [about a contract]. I talked with Jean-René Bernaudeau and was very happy to sign there and be able to do the Classic races in Belgium. That is the reason.”

Generally Florencio's compatriots tend to specialise in stage races, although of late those such as Juan Antonio Flecha and Oscar Freire have shown that it is possible to ride well in one-day events. Florencio feels a kinship with Classic riders, saying that he developed a love for that kind of racing several years ago.

“I was used to do Belgian races when I was with the ONCE team. I enjoyed those events and also the Tour de France. They are very important for me. I enjoy the races in Flanders and have been quite successful there in the past. But today I was very pleased to go well in the sprint and to win out here in the end.

“I broke my collarbone earlier this year but realised in the Tour de l’Ain that I was in good form. I am very happy to win here and confident for the future. I hope to keep improving for the Vuelta.”

Looking a bit nervous at the press conference
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti

Images by AFP Photo

Images by Régis Garnier/www.velofotopro.com

Images by Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews

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