Chechu’s in the Shack!
Johan Bruyneel, director of Team Radio Shack, announced that Lance’s old buddy and mountain domestique Jose Luis Rubiera will ride for the team in 2010. Guess Lance wanted another old guy (Rubiera is 37) on the road. The team is already taking on the feel of Geriatric Shack.
Anyone who ever watched the mountain stages of the Tour de France in Lance’s glory days knows that Rubiera was the man setting the murderous tempo. Not the more famous Roberto Heras, not the excellent Yaroslav Popovych or the hard-working Manuel Beltran. Those guys were huge but the sight of Ruberia, jersey zipped all the way open, drenched in sweat, his head rocking back and forth in catatonic exhaustion as he drove the pedals was an astonishing sight.
An engineering student and class guy, Rubiera always rose to the occasion for Armstrong, riding past limits, pain thresholds and rivals. He broke many a tour contender to pieces before Lance even bothered to hit the gas. Numerous riders in Postal and Discovery sacrificed themselves for the Texan but no one gave more blood than Rubeira. He probably shorted his own life span by 5 years with those inhuman efforts. Five tours of duty, all with Lance finishing in Yellow. Only George Hincapie was there for all seven but he never paced Armstrong up an hors categorie climb.
At the end of the 2007 season, Rubiera looked set for a comfortable retirement, trade the Trek for the Lazyboy. He tried but Bruyneel hooked him for another year at Astana. He tried again but no go: Armstrong wanted him back and that’s an invitation Chechu couldn’t refuse. That engineering thing will have to wait another year. Although it’s a nice fit with Radio Shack — perhaps he can work on some of their gadgets in his spare time.
There will be a moment in the 2010 Tour de France, somewhere high up in the mountains, the gradient in double digits, when Lance needs help. We’re guessing that man will be Chechu Rubeira.