For those of us that have become fans of cycling some years before appearing on the stage the monster of the 90's Indurain, the King of Cycling in Spain has been, no doubt, Pedro Delgado. With him and some more of his generation, spanish cycling leaves the place in the shade that had in international races and comes out to compete in the same terms with the big shots.
His burst into international cycling scenary comes in 1983, a year after becoming a pro in the Reynolds team, whose leader at that time was Angel Arroyo. At that summer's Tour Reynolds novices, directed by Echavarri, venture over the Pyrenees. At the time-trial climb of Puy de Dome, Arroyo and Perico are the surprise taking first and second position and giving new life to the race. Nevertheless, at the same time, they begin being famous for their terrible bad days, like the one Pedro suffers in the stage of Morzine due to bad food, losing 25 minutes.
In 1984 he is looking forward to coming back to the Tour but in the stage from La Plagne to Morzine he bursts his front wheel and falls down against a fence breaking his right clavicle. He still reached the finish, but had to leave in the end.
At the spanish Vuelta of 1985 he makes his debut with a new team: Orbea. As the race develops, his teammate Pello Ruiz Cabestany and scottish cyclist Robert Millar prove to be favorites to win. At the beginning of the 18th stage between Alcalá and Segovia, Perico is 6th in the overall clasification 6 min. and 3 secs. away from Millar. But he has not thrown the towell yet: after Recio's attack at Cotos, and in a place he knows well, Perico speeds after Recio and reaches him descending Navacerrada, coming both to the finish line with time enough for Perico to win his first Vuelta.
That same year, Perico returns to the Tour, reaching only the 6th position and winning the stage of Luz Ardiden.
1986 is the year he leaves to dutch team PDM, where he wants to become fearless of the way of cycling in foreign countries. That year at the Tour things look to go O.K.: he wins the stage of Pau and is fifth in the overall clasification, but the 20th of July his mother dies and, though his family want him to go on, Pedro quits next day in the stage of Alpe D'Huez while climbing the Croix de Ferre.
The Vuelta of 1987, won by Lucho Herrera and where Perico is 4th, is a preparation for the Tour. This year will be his duel with Stephen Roche (who had already won the Giro that year and would win the World Championship later). His head to head with the Irish rider was epic indeed, Perico attacking at the very moment he glances a chance. One of those moments is at the stage of Villard de Lans, where later Perico regrets he wouldn't finish off Roche. At the stage of Alpe D'Huez Delgado makes history, for he is the first spanish rider in yellow at the Tour since 1973. But he wants to keep his yellow jersey till Paris. and so for he has to broaden his advantage of 21 seconds over the Irish. Because of that, in the stage of La Plagne, Perico strikes at the last climb. He stroms up at the very beginning with the idea in mind of taking two minutes from Roche as a precaution against the time trial of Dijon. However, he starts to weaken at 3 km to the finish and Roche recaptures the given ground. Although at the very finish the Irish blacked out and is given oxigen, he only looses 4 seconds and next day starts the stage fresh as a rose. At Dijon, Roche wins the time trial stage with a vantage of 1 minute and 1 second over Delgado who is finally 2nd on the podium in Paris.
1988 . That season he begins his training with the Giro of Italy, renouncing to take part in the Vuelta, what causes annoyance to the organizers of the race and some periodistic circles financially related to the organitation. Nevertheless, preparation seems to go well for the cyclist from Segovia: arrives at the Tour in a splendid shape and the 14th of July he already gets the yellow jersey at Alpe D'Huez, winning next day time trial climbing stage at Villard de Lans and widening his vantage. Everything runs snooth when the 19th of July at Bordeux the news of a presumed doping burst. Though later all the charges are released, those days everybody are eager and nervous, Perico the very first. Finally, the 24th Perico is up the podium at Paris wearing yellow.
Next year, 1989, Pedro Delgado comes back to the Vuelta of Spain, where he seems to keep last season's good shape. At the stage of Cerler he is already 5th in the overall clasification and wins the timetrial climbing of Valdezcaray: at the finish he's only 2 seconds away from the leader. Next day he takes a yellow jersey he will never left till the end. He even wins the timetrial stage between Valladolid and Medina del Campo. At the 20th stage, Parra, his closest enemy, is still in the mood for battle, but he can't gain enough advantage to take final triumph away from Perico. This is his second Vuelta.
His phisical condition looks to be optimun to face the Tour. However, a confusion at the prologue in Luxembourg makes him lose 2 min. and 40 secs. when he arrives late at the start line. The commotion is huge and Perico's nerves betray him next day at the team timetrial where he loses 5 more minutes: too much a disadvantage to win the Tour. However, for the rest of the race, Perico moves and strikes trying to cut differences and finishes the race in 3rd position, only 3 min. and 34 seconds away from Greg Lemond (who would seize the final victory away from Fignon on the very last stage in Paris).
Trying to make up for last Tour's bad luck, he begins 1990 at the Vuelta of Spain, but he can't keep his crown against surprising italian Giovanetti. He finishes second.
We are all confident of his best luck in this Tour, but this time a gastroentiritis during the first days of the race makes victory impossible for him. In the last time trial stage he leaves the third place on behalf of Breukink. Not everything should be bad luck in this Tour: the one who would be Perico's relay begins to unveil: Miguel Indurain wins at Luz Ardiden and it is already said maybe one day he can win a Tour.
91 is a grey year for Pedro. He makes 5th in the Giro and goes to the Tour still looking for victory. However, the 19th of July, at the stage of the Tourmalet, Indurain makes a historic escape with Chiapucci and he takes oficially the relay from Pedro who gives up his chances. From then on Perico takes his new role and works for his teammate's victory.
The Vuelta of Spain has often been a box of surprises and in 1992 transforms a cyclist considered only regular into an international figure for the next years: Rominger. The swiss ends with Perico's hopes of taking this year his third Vuelta and, even though he wins the stage of Lagos de Enol, he will have to resign himself to the third place after Rominger and spanish revelation Montoya.
At this year's Tour Perico is sixth, what looks poor for us his fans, although the yellow jersey in Paris has owner for years to come: Indurain.
In 93 Perico's star seems to get dim. Takes part in the Vuelta and is finally sixth in a race dominated again by Rominger. This year will be his last participation in the Tour and he says goodbye with a worthy 9th place (Miguel wins once more, and there are still more to come...).
In 94 Perico has made up his mind and will say goodbye to his bycicle taking part in his last three weeks race: the Vuelta. Masterly measuring out his strenghs, Pedro gets a final third position, defending it in the last time trial against ambushed swiss Zulle. Not a bad goodbye for the cyclist from Segovia.
Vuelta a España