It makes for an unlikely spectacle – a cold, January day at a huge country house in Yorkshire with a film crew hard at work, when former Tour de France champion Oscar Pereiro bursts from the back of a peloton and rides inside.
Not your average day out, but then no former Tour de France champion can be described as average.
There is, of course, method to the madness unfolding at Harewood House, with Pereiro taking part in filming ahead of the summer’s Dare 2b Yorkshire Festival of Cycling, which will be held at the grounds over the Tour de France Grand Depart weekend.
The huge, rolling country estate will play host to an equally large celebration of cycling come July – but for one Spaniard in particular, there is an obvious downsides to the ASO’s choice of Yorkshire as host for the Grand Départ.
Now there is Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Team Sky, Great Britain… I think, while the 2007 Grand Départ was incredible, this year will be more so – Oscar Pereiro
“It’s cold,” he jokes, when RCUK meet him during a break in filming. “It’s really, really cold. For a Spanish man, it’s difficult!
“The grounds are nice to ride in, but today my clothing is thin, the air is cold – there are no good sensations!
“But, more important, is all they are doing for the Tour de France and it’s OK.”
Cold it may be, but the passion the 2006 Tour champion has for cycling’s biggest race remains unbridled – even if his own moment in the sun came amidst a cloud of controversy.
He explains: “The Tour de France, for me, is the biggest race in the world. When I was a child it was my dream and I said many times to win it would be to fulfil my dream.”
And win it he did, in 2006, although only after American Floyd Landis – who had snatched the maillot jaune from the Spaniard’s grasp in the final stages – was disqualified for failing a drugs test.
But Pereiro refuses to dwell on the messy, drawn-out affair which tarnished the 2006 Tour or on Landis – insisting he has moved on after what he terms ‘all the problems’.
“Of course in 2006, the winner was Landis but then there were all the problems,” he explains. “But for me, that is now history. It is in the past. It has gone.
“The final of the 2006 Tour is history for me now, but the Tour is still the Tour.”
The people coming to the race are doing so for their love of the riders, and their love of the Tour de France. This is a victory for England and for Yorkshire – Oscar Pereiro
Instead, the Spaniard prefers to focus on the good memories he now treasures from one of sport’s great spectacles – particular those from 2005, where his penchant for the break earned him a stage victory and the combativity award.
“I raced in many Tours, and for me the best was 2005,” he states. “It was just full of good sensations, I was happy every day with being at the front of the race – it was a really, really good Tour.”
Likewise, Pereiro also enjoyed the year immediately after his victory when he was last off the ramp for the Tour prologue in London.
Backed by a noisy British crowd, the Tour’s last Grand Départ on these shores certainly caught the public’s imagination but Pereiro is convinced 2014 will be even better.
“London was nice,” he says. “I liked starting as the last rider in the time trial, although there were still big problems regarding the 2006 yellow jersey and Floyd.
“I think it is possible there was no other stage with quite so many people lining the roads. It was a really, really, really good experience and the other cyclists also say it too.
“After this experience, I think the Tour de France Grand Départ in Yorkshire will be the same, or even better. Now there is Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Team Sky, Great Britain… I think, while 2007 was incredible, this will be more so.
“Professional cycling at the moment is good. There is one rider, in Chris Froome, who is clearly the best – Oscar Pereiro
“The people coming to the race are doing so for their love of the riders, and their love of the Tour de France. This is a victory for England and for Yorkshire.”
His career may have finished only recently, but the sport Pereiro loves has also undergone sweeping changes – with the ‘d-word’ in particular much less prevalent.
With Team Sky leading the way both on and off the road, and former British Cycling supremo Brian Cookson setting about repairing the UCI’s battered reputation in his new role as president of the sport’s governing body, Pereiro believes the sport is now in a good place.
Citing the example of the captivating spectacle of last year’s Tour de France, the Spaniard also believes the future is bright for professional cycling.
“Professional cycling at the moment is good,” he states. “There is one rider, in Chris Froome, who is clearly the best.
“But it all still makes a very good spectacle. Before the last Tour everybody was saying Froome was going to win, but it was still really good.
“Doping in the past was very, very bad over seven or eight years, but now in the last three or four years it is all different.
“When I rode there was a big problem but in this moment it is OK – maybe there will be one or two cases but it is mostly OK. We are working for a good future.”www.festivalofcycling.org