Telephone squad wins UCI WorldTour teams' classification for the third time on a row after impressive consistency throughout 2015, with Alejandro Valverde crowning a long nine months' work with 4th in Il Lombardia, following his clinched WT victory in the Vuelta
Struggling and giving every bit of energy left until the final kilometer of the last race, Il Lombardia, held on Sunday over 254km including six hard climbs from Bergamo to Como, the Movistar Team made count again their consistency and willingness to perform strong in all big races of the cycling scene to claim a third consecutive victory in the UCI WorldTour, the ranking that gives prize to the most solid, successful squad in the sport.
Following almost nine months which started at the Tour Down Under, after claiming 12 wins in cycling's top tier -32 so far in their 2015 season- and also shining on the podium of the Tour and the Vuelta, it all came down to a 33-point margin in the last event. Willing to contest the final Monument of the classics season, the riders directed by José Luis Jaimerena pushed hard in search for the initial, 11-man breakaway en route to the Madonna del Ghisallo, launching Ion Izagirre afterwards on the pursuit. The grueling, steep Muro di Sormano (up to 30% gradient) broke the bunch into pieces, with Astana taking the reins of the group as Alejandro Valverde, in one of the final events in a marvellous year, kept caution while giving all that he could to stick at the front.
As Nibali went away for victory into the descent of Civiglio and Moreno (KAT) and Pinot (FDJ) attacked during the San Fermo uphill, claiming spots two and three respectively, Valverde picked up the pace to try and approach a podium he ultimately went one step short, 4th as he beat Diego Rosa (AST) into the last sprint. The 20-point advantage for Moreno over Alejandro left a 13-point margin enough for Unzué's squad, kings of the world cycling ranking for the fifth time after 1992, 2008, 2013 and 2014, while Valverde (1st) and Quintana (3rd) confirmed their podium finishes in the UCI individual WorldTour ranking.
Eusebio Unzué: "It was a long, intense season, and we had to give everything today just as we did during the whole season – we really had and deserved to top this brilliant 2015 with the WorldTour ranking. We tried to be on the front in all phases of the race so no attacks could take us by surprise; starting with a strong pace before the Ghisallo and, later on, launching Ion ahead – he fulfilled his labour. After Sormano, the race was all under Astana's pace; they were the ones working the most for glory today, even though at the end, Dani (Moreno) seemed a bit like the strongest man on course, also being the one that could jeopardize our WorldTour success. Alejandro, who was close to the point of suffering from cramps, got to manage himself well and not taking an unbearable effort that could have taken down. He knew that, should Nibali reach the finish victorious, he could give Moreno three places so as not to lose the WT victory – and he delivered. It was a grueling day, with some rain in the beginning, a huge pace all day, difficult climbs – everyone, as well into our team as in the rest of the field, really paid it today.
"To sum things up: 'mission accomplished'. It's a huge reward for everything we did on a sporting point of view this year: always at the front, taking responsibilities in many races, attacking… we never ease off, we always fight to show the world we're a consistent team that gives everything, on the road and also with all people outside. The quality of our riders, together with excellent work from all departments – directeur sportifs, carers, mechanics, the communications team, our doctors… the whole staff, almost 40 people helping out the riders. They all have a share of this success. I'm tremendously happy to be able to offer all our sponsors this success, especially Telefónica. All of them also did their best to make things easier for us, and this is our way to reward them for their confidence."