21 victories and wins in all three GT’s crown the palmarès of a squad fighting relentlessly throughout the season between joy and disgrace
Movistar Team closed their first season into cycling’s elite peloton showing their outstanding sporting quality and the values outlined by Eusebio Unzué’s squad since they started their pro activities more than three decades ago. The telephone squad finished the 2011 calendar in last Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia after their riders raced for more than 270,000 kilometers in four continents to snatch 21 individual wins, four of them in three three European Grand Tours -a milestone only conquered by three other squads in the world this year- and five overall team wins.
The Blue squad, author of the best Spanish team performance in the 2011 UCI World Tour, was all season into the best tean squads -even making the top-5 through the first part of the year- in the prestigious CQ Ranking, measuring the regularity of all riders around the globe, where they eventually took 11th only after the last race, what emphasizes the constance of a block able to replace the absence of a strong leader with good results all year, even after horrific moments suffered in the meantime.
Despite the late Xavi Tondo passing away in May and Mauricio Soler suffering a serious crash less than a month after, Movistar Team showed bravery and professionality to claim eight wins in the second part of the season, accompanying the succesful 13-victory run up to the second week of the Giro d’Italia. Back in January, Unzué’s squad opened their account with success by Tondo himself (at the ITT of the Tour de San Luis, his penultimate win prior to the GC of the Vuelta a Castilla y León) and Fran Ventoso (in the Tour Down Under, the first of five strikes making him become the team’s top scorer).
Spain was the place for the telephone squad to claim the following ten victories: in the Trofeo Deià, with José Joaquín Rojas; in Andalusia, with Ventoso; in two World Tour events, Catalunya and País Vasco, with Rojas and Belarusian Vasil Kiryienka; in the Vuelta a Castilla y León, with another two stage wins by Ventoso; and the Vuelta a Murcia, with the maiden triumph for Enrique Sanz and the GC -the second of three obtained by the team- by the latest Blue signing, Rui Costa, who would eventually take Movistar’s colours to glory atop Super-Besse in the Tour de France, only two months later.
Between those two victories by the Portuguese rider, some of the year’s most significant successes: the return win in a GT for Ventoso, claiming stage 6 of the Giro, and the confirmation of Vasil Kiryienka into the top, taking honours in Sestriere only five days after Tondo’s sad loss and crowning it with the overall of the Route du Sud in June. Few days before the Belarusian’s third win, Mauricio Soler took yellow in the same Tour de Suisse that would see its last racing kilometers up to date.
After the Tour de France -where José Joaquín Rojas honoured the Spanish participation with the national champion jersey taken in Castellón over Alberto Contador, contesting the green points jersey until the very last day-, Unzué’s lads did not get content. After riding the fastest TTT in the last decade -almost 70 kph average in the Vuelta a Burgos-, the team went into the Vuelta a España with the aim of completing the GT triple. It went smooth. Right on stage 3. Pablo Lastras, arguably the most charismatic rider in the team’s roster, completed a long breakaway with a solo attack to the win and the red jersey in Totana. Rui Costa closed the circle winning the GP Montréal at the same time their teammates celebrated their finish in Madrid.
However, over all sporting values, the human ones shone into a 26-rider group that had to fight against adversity all season long, not only by two losses in the spring but also due to lost of misfortune starting in the first days of January, with Andrey Amador being attacked by thugs while training in homeland Costa Rica; the long injury by Rubén Plaza, only recovered by the end of the season after breaking his tibia and fibula in the Vuelta a Murcia with 4 onths of recovery; the crash by the team’s road captain Chente García Acosta, en route to his 15th consecutive Vuelta a España, or the food poisoning suffered by most of their riders in the final week of the Spanish race, were unable to take the mood out of an unshakeable group.