Nélson Oliveira was recruited by Team RadioShack from Xacobeo Galicia for the 2011 season, off the back of two years of impressive results. In July he took the silver medal at the U23 European Road Championships in Ankara, as well as the bronze medal at the European TT Championships. He also finished 4th in the U23 TT World Championship in Melbourne this year. We were lucky enough to get some time with him as he headed to his first Team RadioShack training camp (Thanks to Dan Silva). We will be following him with interest this season as he steps up with RadioShack and rides alongside our fellow country man Philip Deignan (Ed: Go Phil!).
Thanks for taking the time Nelson, we really appreciate it
It is a pleasure.
Nelson tell us about your first ever race back in Portugal, and how you got introduced to cycling?
I got introduced to cycling through my father, who was also a professional cyclist and raced in several of the Volta a Portugal. I did my first race in 2003 in the youth category at the age of 14 and I won my first race in 2004, and it was then that I started to dream of becoming a Pro. It is hard to achieve this in Portugal, as the Pro scene is pretty small. It consists of only four professional teams.I stuck with it and for the 2009 season I got a spot on the Cidade de Lugo/Artesania Galicia team. I stayed with them for one season and then moved on to Xacobeo Galicia for the 2010 season.
Growing up in Portugal which riders did you admire?
My two favorite riders to watch were José Azevedo and Lance Armstrong. It is funny how these things work out, but ironically next year José will be my coach, and Lance will be my teammate. If you had told me that back then growing up, I would have said that would be unthinkable.
The 2010 season was a great year for you, with great results in the European Championships and at the Worlds. Is this what we should expect from Nelson going forward? Do you see the TT as your specialty?
I wouldn’t call it my specialty, but for now it is without doubt the discipline where I feel more at ease, and feel the strongest. My goal for the future is to improve my performance in the mountains, and try to not loose continued improvements against the clock. I want to be a better all round rider.
Like father like son, Nelson’s father back in the day, and Nelson on the podium at the European Championships
In that World U23 TT can you remember what your numbers were? We watch these races on TV and often wonder what it takes. It gives us something to think about racing around the park.
I didn’t ride with a power meter during the TT, but my average speed for the coarse (9.81miles/15.8Km) was 27.9mph (45km/h).
What was the atmosphere like down there? We have a lot of Aussies that follow the blog, and they can be a pretty passionate group about their cycling?
The atmosphere was amazing. The sport has had a great expansion in Australia and the fans have grown with it. So despite the distance of getting down there, it was still a great place to hold the worlds and one of the main reasons why it was chosen.
Watching the grand Tours on TV I can’t imagine what it is like to ride through a wall of fans going up an Alpine or Pyrenean climb, How does it feel?
It is a pretty great feeling at any time, but especially while climbing. It is always good to have support from the side of the road when you travel, but it especially helps when your legs start to give on the bigger climbs. You definitely get an extra burst of energy that helps push you on.
What is your favorite race you have done so far as a pro?
Without doubt it was the Road Race at the World Championships at Mendrisio, where I also won the silver medal in the Time Trial. It’s where the best of the best are, and everyone wants to win a medal.
If I could give you a win right here and now, of any of the one day races, what would you choose?
Paris-Roubaix without question.
Do you have a favorite climb?
It has to be the Serra da Estrela, the highest climb in Portugal at 6,539 ft. I have a couple of favorite training rides close to where I live, but nothing in particular. I like to train on a terrain of good medium hills.
You are part of the next generation of young and clean talent in the peleton, what do you think could be done better to keep our sport clean and competitive?
I think if we continue to work the same way we are now in Portugal, we will be ok. The training set-up for young riders is fundamental, it allows you to create the right values from the start, along with the right attitude. From this we will have new riders that will turn into the right sort of idols. We need this for the fans and to bring new sponsors in to the sport.
Tell us about getting the ride with Radioshack? How did it happen? What is your program going to look like next year?
Signing for Radioshack’s is a dream come true. There has been a lot of hard work over the previous years on my part, and that has given Johan a lot of confidence in my abilities. It is still too early to define my program for next year, but I will know more as we go through the training camps and we define the team goals.
Where do you base yourself for the European calendar?
I’ll continue to live where I’ve always been, in Portugal living with my parent’s
What is it like sitting on Cancellara’s wheel at full gas?
I have not had that opportunity yet
Johan continues to have an eye for great young talent, out of all the the new riders at RadioShack who impresses you the most?
Ben King. He has achieved great results already last season and is the current US Champion.
I know you will feel you have to answer Trek for this question, but when you sit on the start line and you look at all the team bikes, which one do you want to steel most (after Trek)?
After Trek, I would have to say the Pinarello. With the Pinarello FM1 I achieved the best result of my career, and was able to become the “Vice Champion” of the world for the Time Trial.
(Thanks to Dan Silva for the Portuguese translation)