"Heras deserves it"
On Sunday evening, Tony Rominger will no longer be the co-record holder for the number of career Vuelta victories. But the Swiss man, triple winner from 1992 to 1994, feels honoured to be surpassed by Roberto Heras, who will become the first rider in hist
Rominger understood last Sunday, when Heras rode bullishly to emphatic success at Parajes, that his time at the top was indeed up. But records are there to be beaten, and a stoic Rominger is only too aware of this.
Speaking to Spanish daily Marca, the retired peloton star admitted that he was not bitter and was the first to recognise Heras' imminent exploit.
The former Swiss champion is not even disappointed that his record is about to fall. "I was more [disappointed] when Chris Boardman had broken my hour record, because then, I was really losing something. The Vuelta, I have won it three times and nobody can take that away from me. No, honestly, it has no importance," he underlined.
If those three consecutive wins cannot be taken away from Rominger, then neither can the Swiss man's memories of his favourite race.
"The Vuelta was the race of my life," Rominger admitted. "In 1994, the year of my last victory, I could really take it all in, savour and make the most of it because I had a big lead."
In 1994, Rominger boasted over seven minutes lead over eventual runner-up Mikel Zarrabeitia. One year earlier, however, everything was not quite so simple: "I have a special memory of the 1993 race because I had given myself a real scare during the last time trial, which [Alex] Zuelle won.
If Rominger regrets one thing, it is the absence of foreign stars on the Vuelta. "Ten or fifteen years ago, it was a much more international race than nowadays," he said with a pang of nostalgia. "I don't think the public minded either. Even if we were Swiss, the spectators loved our duels. It was another time. In my eyes, the Vuelta has lost part of its interest in being run in September."
According to Rominger, the third major Tour of the year has now become a last-chance saloon for those riders who performed badly in the Tour de France in July. He said he was not bitter, but could that be a little swipe at Roberto Heras, a regular underachiever in the Grande Boucle?