Izagirre, Herrada in second overall in Portugal, France after magnificent teamwork from Movistar youngsters and veterans. Post-stage crash, likely arm injury for Castroviejo in Algarve
Movistar Team shone on Sunday more than they could do at any point of the early season, jumping onto the podium in all three stageraces they took part in during the weekend. At the Volta ao Algarve, Ion Izagirre confirmed a brilliant second place overall behind Geraint Thomas (SKY), after successfully getting over the demanding slopes of the Alto do Malhao, climbed twice during the 169km stage five from Almodovar. Great teamwork from the squad directed by José Luis Jaimerena all stage wasn't fully responded by Ion's legs (12th over the line), though the Spaniard profited from the short time loss against the Welshman and a bad day from Tony Martin (EQS), race leader coming into today's showdown, to share the final podium with Thomas and stage winner Alberto Contador (TNK).
"Looking at the field of competitors, this podium is really satisfactory," conceded Izagirre. "Thomas was clearly superior all race, while Alberto proved to be in very good condition over the climb today. Our team worked brilliantly during today's stage, but I might have lacked a bit of legs in Malhao. That's why we must feel extremely happy about today. Thursday in Fóia, Nelson entered a late break and the race was more or less under control for us, but when he was chased down, we had to reach, and I chose to attack with 1km to go. I probable went too far too early, also because there was some headwind which made the sprint harder. Still, I saw there I was doing well again after Valencia, and after the TT, when I got into the podium, my will to do well and fight for the race was stronger.
"I was surprised to see Martin dropping back so early today; 'Castro' set a hard pace at the front through the first climb of Malhao and I saw him riding at the back, but I thought he was going on his own pace and not dropping back. Later on, Amador told me he was way behind, so we had to keep pushing to conserve that second place. As we already said during the last few months, these one-week races really suit me better than Grand Tours: with a time trial and climbs not so long, not specifically for climbers, I do well and am able to contest the GC victories. I'll try to do so again in Paris-Nice and País Vasco, two demanding, WorldTour races, where we will have to step up a bit more. I hope to continue with these results."
The day's bad news came after the stage. Jonathan Castroviejo sustained a crash when he was riding down from Malhao's finish to the team bus, parked on the foot of the climb. The Basque allrounder has already been moved to a hospital in Faro, where X-rays and an MRI will check the extent of the likely injuries in his neck and left arm. No details have been disclosed yet.
Haut Var: Gorka Izagirre caught with 500m left; Jesús Herrada 2nd on stage two, overall
As devoted to overall success or even more than their team-mates on Portuguese soil were again today the lads directed by Chente García Acosta in the Tour du Haut Var, where all Movistar Team riders worked for glory in a demanding loop around Draguignan during stage two (207km). After an acceleration by Giovanni Visconti into the decisive climb of Tuilières, Gorka Izagirre tried a move from the reduced elite group and was close to victory, so close that the bunch could only catch him into the final kilometer, with all squads leading out the sprint.. Vichot (FDJ) claimed the stage win and the overall as Jesús Herrada finished in a close 2nd, coming as runner-up overall and matching his result from the recent Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (stage 2).
"Our intention was making the race harder at the end. We attacked then with Giovanni and Gorka, and the latter came really, really close", explained Jesús. "FDJ was pushing in the run-in to the finish, but it was the last pull from AG2R and Etixx which made it impossible for him to reach the line. I was having good legs and we had to stay attentive for the sprint, but I also lacked a bit to claim the win. We knew we had a strong team for this race and had to fight in all fronts. We already made the attacks with Giovanni yesterday and a split avoided myself contesting the win… we all did what we could. It seems like the whole team was missing a bit to fight for victories, and this week it all went great for us. However, I'm still lacking some fortune, with these three second places – let's hope I can bounce back and win at last in Paris-Nice.