Former Tour de France winner Oscar Pereiro made his debut as a semi-professional football player on Sunday, playing for his local team, Coruxo B, in the segunda autonomica league in Spain – equivalent to the Blue Square Premier level (formerly the Vauxhall Conference) in the UK.
After retiring from cycling this autumn, the 34-year-old has now opted for a career in football.
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Ever since his victory by default in the Tour de France 2006 after Floyd Landis was stripped of the title because of a positive for testosterone, Pereiro has continued to race but has gone nowhere near a repeat performance of that year.
Tenth in the 2007 Tour, he crashed out of the same race in 2008 and abandoned after just over a week in 2009 because of poor morale.
His final season was spent in the Astana team where he was dropped from the Tour de France squad at the last minute and then did not get selected for the Tour of Spain.
“I was a middling to good rider and I ended up winning a Tour de France,” he told the Spanish press, “and I suppose in the future that will end up being recognised as having some merit.”
“I certainly value it, it was the most important thing that happened to me.”
If his exit from cycling was low-key, Pereiro’s debut in the world of football was not overly dramatic, either. He played for the last 24 minutes of the game but could not prevent Coruxo from losing 1-0. But he remains optimistic.
“The good thing is that at 33 I’ve not got the usual physical problems footballers have because I haven’t been playing a contact sport,” Pereiro reflected.
“After years and years of playing more football in knockabout games with my mates, I’ve got so many areas I can improve in, I can only get better.”