Quick Step’s Carlos Barredo is stepping up to fill Paolo Bettini’s shoes in the hilly classics

Carlos Barredo will have some big shoes to fill as Quick Step enters the Ardennes classics without the dominating presence of Paolo Bettini. Quick Step has grown accustomed to dominating the spring classics, first with Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder on the cobbles and then with Bettini in the hilly classics such as Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. With Bettini enjoying retirement, Quick Step is looking to the 27-year-old Barredo to step up and carry the team colors across the Ardennes.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

By Andrew Hood

Barredo at the Tour of California this year.

Barredo at the Tour of California this year.

Photo: Graham Watson

Carlos Barredo will have some big shoes to fill as Quick Step enters the Ardennes classics without the dominating presence of Paolo Bettini.

Quick Step has grown accustomed to dominating the spring classics, first with Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder on the cobbles and then with Bettini in the hilly classics such as Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

With Bettini enjoying retirement, Quick Step is looking to the 27-year-old Barredo to step up and carry the team colors across the Ardennes.

Barredo says he’s up to the task. Last year, the Spanish all-rounder won a stage at Paris-Nice and was second in stage 18 at the Tour de France.

Earlier this season, VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood caught up with Barredo to discuss the spring classics, what he learned from Bettini and what it takes to win in today’s peloton.

VeloNews: This is your third season with Quick Step, do you feel settled in here?

Carlos Barredo: The truth is, yes, I am very happy here. After riding on a Spanish team and then to come to this team is a dream. Not only is Quick Step one of the best teams in the world, it is a team that specializes in one-day races. I thought it would be more difficult, because other Spanish riders didn’t have great luck on this team, like Mercado or Pecharromán, but I signed a contract with two years with another year for a one-year option. Last year, things went pretty well and Patrick (Lefévère) asked me to sign for another two years. This year, I am the only Spanish rider here. I am missing a little bit Juanma Garate (signed with Rabobank), but I feel at home here with the Belgians.

VN: So after a few years here, how’s your Flemish?

CB: Ha, for me, no way. I speak English and Italian, but Flemish, no way. That’s impossible.

VN: This season starts with new goals for yourself, are you racing a similar calendar?

CB: My season is more or less the same as last year. Amstel-Flecha-Liege, then a little break until Catalunya, Dauphine or Swiss, one of those two, then the Tour de France, and then the Vuelta. That’s what I’ve done the past two years, it’s worked out well, so we’re going to stick with it. Since the first year I’ve demonstrated that I could do classics, Tour and Vuelta. I recover well and it’s a good calendar for me. Two years ago when I did the Vuelta, without really fighting for GC, I was up there in the front.

VN: You’ve become established, the natural step is success in some bigger races?

CB: I hope so. The team is expecting something big from me. Last year, I gained a lot of confidence, not only from the victory at Paris-Nice, but also at Flanders, when I was at the front of the race almost until the end to finish in the first group after working almost all day. Later, well, the Tour didn’t turn out like we had hoped and then in the Vuelta, I fell and broke my hand. This year, I want to make that step up in terms of quality. I believe I can do it. I am working hard to achieve it. I also will assume more responsibilities in these types of races. Including trying to win a stage at the Tour, like the stage that got away from me last year into Saint-Etienne (second in stage 18).

VN: There’s quite a difference between talking about it and actually executing?

CB: It’s a major difference in all aspects. I have to work harder, I have to have more motivation. I am 27 years old, so little by little, I’ve been progressing. Last year, especially in the first part of the year, I demonstrated I could be up front. I was there in all the important races. I want to regain this same level and then, with a bit of luck, I know I can do it. This year, I have more expectations thrust upon me, I am confident that I can assume the weight of this extra responsibility. It’s for all this that I am working.

VN: When you say something important, you’re talking about the spring classics, stage victories?

CB: At least try to win one. Two years ago, I was fifth in the Clásica San Sebástian. It was a spectacular race and I was already playing for the victory. So now I want to be able to be in the hunt for Amstel Gold, Liège or perhaps a stage in the Tour or Vuelta. I’ve been third, fourth, second, with a little bit more of everything, luck, experience, depth, maturity, more responsibility, I can make this jump. Just imagine, instead of being second, fourth, third, if they were all first, first, first! Sometimes it’s like that. It’s just a question of small details.

VN: What do you think makes the difference between winning and being close?

CB: Last night, for example, I was speaking with my roommate, Marco Velo, and he was talking about how cycling has changed from a few years ago. He told me the level is so much higher now than it was, say, a decade ago. He said that today, more than ever, the small details are what make a difference, be it you’re one kilo lighter, paying attention to the small details of diet and recovery, your training, these are the things that mark the differences in today’s peloton.

This year, for example, I have a saddle made to specifications. Specialized has given me shoes that are tailored exactly to the shape of my foot. I had to change a little because I had a small problem with a bone in my foot, but what a difference it makes when you pedal. All this adds up to make a difference. You have more experience, the team offers you the opportunity, you have to go for it. Now I’ve reached that point.

VN: You’re kind of atypical for Spanish riders that you like the northern classics?

CB: That’s true. I love the northern classics. I don’t know if it’s because when I was just starting out in my career with Liberty Seguros that we would always race in Belgium. I had a little more freedom in those races because we didn’t go in there with a big captain, so you could move around a little bit. I discovered early I really love those races. And then, riding the past two seasons around a rider like Paolo (Bettini), just imagine the things you can learn from a rider like him.

VN: Like what kind of things?

CB: I was fortunate enough to race with him in quite a few races. You learn so much, it’s almost hard to describe it. The small details, how he races, how he prepares, where he attacks, he knows the races like the back of his hand. Those things just rub off. Just like year in Flanders, they said, Okay, you stay close to Tom (Boonen). Then we arrived to the Kwaremont, okay, Barredo, make a selection, accelerate. It seems simple, but looking at it from the inside with this team with so much experience, you see it in a different light. You appreciate it more.

VN: With Bettini’s retirement, that obviously opens more for you in the Ardennes?

CB: We still have a good team. Sure, Bettini is a big loss, he was a guarantee, but we have riders like Chavanel, Pineau. Now it’s time for me to step up, and I’d like to do it. I am working so hard to be ready when these races arrive. I’d like to apply the lessons I’ve learned from Bettini. Two years ago, I was able to attack on La Redoute when the race was going fast, which is not easy. Bettini later told me when we got to the bus, ‘Barredo, one day you can win this race.’ That gave me so much motivation. To win or not, it’s something like we talked about before, but the idea is to be there in the final kilometers disputing for the victory.

VN: How much will you miss Bettini?

CB: Oh, so much, without a doubt. First, by all the things I learned at his side. Secondly, it was really thanks to him that I arrived on this team. He brought me here to help him in the classics. I will also miss Garate, he really did a lot to integrate me into the team. Later that year in the Vuelta, he was right there by my side, offering advice on how to race. Cycling is like that. You have to keep progressing.

VN: You’ve been in the top 10 before of the Vuelta, do you believe that you could become a GC rider, or is it more to look for opportunities to win stages?

CB: The team tells me, why not plan a season to try to get a podium, say at the Vuelta a España. For me, that seems like a little too much. I also think that at 26, I was 10th in the Vuelta without even looking for it, especially when I was working for the first week for the team, maybe it’s not so far-fetched. Perhaps the podium is a little too much, but to be there to gain a good spot in the GC. So that’s what I am thinking about in the Vuelta this year, and that’s also the best way to earn a spot for the world’s team as well.

VN: So you’ve obviously reached a new level and you want to achieve that big victory?

CB: This is the motivation I have. I could have never dreamed when I started racing a few years ago as a professional that I would be in the position that I found myself now. My dreams then were just to become professional. Now I am in a situation of envy of many riders. I remember talking previously with our trainer Luca, he told me, ‘Carlos, now it’s the time for you to enter into the history of cycling. To do that, you have to win a stage in the Tour or a big classic.’ The dreams are bigger than ever.

VN: What do you like to do away from the bike?

CB: To tell the truth, the past few years I haven’t had time for any sort of hobbies. I’ve been constructing a new home and, believe me, it’s eaten up all of my free time. You have to talk to the architect, fight with the contractor, work in the garden. Between cycling, spending time with the family and working on the house, there’s not much time for anything else. I finally moved in this year so now I will have more time.

VN: What kind of music do you listen to?

CB: When I am training, I never listen to music. At home, we have a good little group of riders, like Chechu (Rubiera), (Benjamin) Noval, Samu (Sánchez), Dani (Navarro), so with them, we are chatting. We usually try to meet up, ride together for the first hour, then split apart to do our workouts, then regroup for the ride back home. When I have some serious work to do, I always go alone and I never listen to music. I like to enjoy countryside and concentrate on what I am doing. But later, of course, you listen to music. I like Manolo Garcia, Joaquín Sabina, and groups like Mica.

Quick Step for Amstel Gold Race;
Carlos Barredo, Dario Cataldo, Sylvain Chavanel, Allan Davis, Dries Devenyns, Ad Engels, Jerome Pineau, Francesco Reda

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.