Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sánchez - Don't compare me with 'el Tarangu'

José Manuel 'el Tarangu' Fuente is undoubtedly one of the greatest climbers ever seen in cycling, as much for his panache and flair as for his results.

Almost 20 years after his passing, the two-time winner of the Vuelta a España is still one of Spain's most cherished cyclists. Fellow native of the Asturias region, Samuel Sánchez, is a big fan of the former KAS rider, and has carved out quite the decent career for himself in the colours of Euskaltel Euskadi.

Fuente was King of the Mountains in the Giro d'Italia four times, and with this year's edition less than a week away, Euskaltel's captain for the race sat down with Deia to discuss the late and great Fuente's legacy.

According to 'Samu', comparisons between himself and 'el Tarangu' are wide off the mark.

"A lot of people say I'm the best cyclist from Asturias ever", he said. "But that's not true. To compare me to Fuente is stretching it. Take a look at his palmares and you see he's got two Vueltas to his name, podiums in the Tour and in the Giro, stages in all three... And then look at me: I've never won a Grand Tour.

"No one compares to Fuente. But it's difficult to talk about different eras, seeing as everything's changed: the bikes, the way to train, the roads, the races... To compare anyone of today's cycling with Fuente is complicated. Perhaps Alberto Contador can compare with some of the stuff that he's achieved - when he attacked on the Col de Télegraphe in the 2011 Tour or in last year's Vuelta".

Fuente, of course, lit the international racing scene alight well before Samuel Sánchez was even born. His father was a friend of Fuente's, and together they would use to hang around in 'el Tarangu''s bike workshop.

'Samu' barely recalls the affable climber despite bumping into him from time to time, but is nonetheless full of praise for the type of rider Fuente was.

"He was one of a kind", he enthused. "A guy who could turn a race upside-down at any moment. He made life miserable for Eddy Merckx, especially in the 1974 edition of the Giro d'Italia.

"I went to his funeral in 1996, and to his tribute in Oviedo. Merckx was there, Felice Gimondi was there, and so were other great cyclists. A lot of people showed up. I even went to visit him in the hospital with my father when he was getting a kidney transplant".

José Manuel Fuente would never go on to win the 'corsa rosa'. Sánchez will have his chance when the action gets underway in Naples on Saturday, but, above all, he's looking for a stage win or a podium placing to go with those he's conquered in Spain and in France.

"I always start a race with big aspirations, focused on winning or trying to win. But I'm aware a lot of things will have to go my way if I'm to win. In addition, I haven't raced in Italy in a long time. Therefore I go to Italy looking for a stage and a top overall placing. The podium? That's my goal, but there are plenty of riders that will be hard to beat".

The penultimate stage of this year's race concludes on the famed Tre Cime de Lavaredo. Watch the video below of Fuente trashing Merckx, Baronchelli et al. by more than a minute back in 1974.

Photo: Orbea

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