Movistar Team couldn’t have found a better way to start their first season into cycling’s world elite. While Xavi Tondo was the rider in charge of opening the victory count for the Spanish squad as the fastest in the individual time trial of the Tour de San Luis, it was the turn today for Fran Ventoso to make the team’s first triumph in the UCI World Tour.
The Spanish rider notched a convincing victory within a short field of fifteen riders, the hills making hard for the big sprinters to settle into the big pace made by Movistar Team, in order to find their options with Ventoso and José Joaquín Rojas. The squad directed by José Luis Arrieta launched Luis Pasamontes and Iván Gutiérrez in the first out of two ascents to the Willunga Hill, the two Spaniards into a 7-man breakaway which also featured Lance Armstrong. Caught with 35 kilometers remaining, the final climb left 18 riders on front: Movistar Team, conserving Rojas, Ventoso and David López, couldn’t bring the Basque rider until the end as he suffered a crash that didn’t mean any major consequences other than his time loss over the line. The finishing straight saw a powerful Ventoso outsprinting u23 world road champion Michael Matthews (RAB), Matthew Goss (THR) and Rojas, who completed Movistar Team’s festival in 4th as the Spanish block is on top of the team’s classification in the Australian course. The negative note of the day came as Chente Garcia Acosta, still suffering from a crash two days ago, was forced to withdraw with pain in the vastus medialis in his left knee. Australian Cameron Meyer (GRM) keeps the overall lead while Ventoso jumps into 5th place, 17 seconds behind, in the eve of the final city course in Adelaide, with 90 kilometers of fast, breathtaking racing.
The day’s winner was radiant with happiness as he took his 23rd professional victory: “I can’t feel happier, it has gone all perfect. It’s super-important for me to start this way, also for the teammates… Sincerely, I was feeling like I was missing a point to beat the pure sprinters, and we knew it was our opportunity today. We had to toughen the race and get the most teammates in the front group at the first climb, and that’s how it went. The team didn’t get a 10 mark, it was 15. Plus, having Arrieta as sports director is a luxury. It has just gone off the bike and knows perfectly which your sensations are, what goes over your mind… In the final straight, both Rojas and I were looking for our options. We get on well and don’t have any problems to work for each other, but with 800 meters to go we decided to try it in our own. We had good position into the group and it was the best sollution not to find ourselves boxed in. There were head winds and I started sprinting only 180 meters from the line, but it was really close since Matthews pushed really hard, and when I crossed the line I didn’t know if I had really won. I heard the speaker saying my name and it was an immense joy. This victory goes to all involved in Movistar Team. My teammates, the technical staff. Eusebio Unzué, who relied on me, and all people following us, which is incredible. We have just started, but i think we’re taking sort of root into the fans, you can see this team is liked.”