'Course to the Sun' comes to an end
Movistar Team repeats success from 2014 in France, shines as Ion Izagirre – 5th overall – and Jesús Herrada – back into the break, 8th today – perform at their best
Movistar Team left the 74th Paris-Nice with a sweet taste as two good results -the win in the teams’ classification and the fifth place overall for Ion Izagirre- wrapped up a week full of different emotions for the Blues. Ion confirmed himself once again as the sort of ‘third man’ the team can rely on when Quintana and Valverde are not around. The Basque allrounder brilliantly responded today after a hard ascent towards the Madone d’Utelle on Saturday, the peloton broken into pieces during this final day as an attack by Contador (TNK) into the Cat-1 Peille climb, created an absolute thriller lasting the 50 kilometers before Nice’s Promenade des Anglais.
Right from the gun, in a short (134km), nervous, demanding (six rated climbs) stage, Jesús Herrada made his third breakaway of this year’s race, a group that added elements until forming a massive 22-man peloton. Reduced to only six strong into the penultimate climb and even more selected on the foot of the Col d'Eze (Cat-1), Herrada could see the GC favourites chasing down Contador’s first move. Yet, the Madrilian tried his way off the front again with Richie Porte (BMC), forcing the two Movistar Team – Ion and Jesús – to give his best so Herrada could still keep his stage winning chances alive. The fight was eventually fruitless, just meters short to reach a trio led home by Tim Wellens (LTS), a survivor of that early break. Jesús crossed the line in eighth place, with Ion in tenth.
A luxurious overall general classification saw Izagirre finishing 37" behind Geraint Thomas (SKY) and just 55” off the coveted podium, still a good result improved by his team-mates, who got Movistar’s third teams GC win in Paris-Nice in the last ten years (2007, 2014). A success impossible without the contribution of injured Juanjo Lobato and José Joaquín Rojas, as well as a devoted Imanol Erviti, José Herrada, Gorka Izagirre and also Rubén Fernández, who briefly joined the duo Ion-Jesús into the decisive climb.
Ion Izagirre (5th, GC): “The final day of Paris-Nice is always demanding. This was a short, yet intense stage. Contador took a strong gamble, put the whole peloton upside down, and those final kilometers were of high exigence. We tried everything we could in the finale, looking for the stage win, but it wasn’t to be for us today. We’re still happy, as we could win the team GC and I took that small step forward in the individual classification. A fifth place – it’s fine for me.
“I felt my legs rolling really well today. At the Col d’Eze, Tinkoff set a strong pace from the foot of the climb and I could still stick with the group. Obviously, at the last 1.5km, Contador and Porte made clear they were the strongest guys, yet we kept fighting the two of us, ‘Chuchi’ (Jesús Herrada) and myself, to go after them – without success. The team was sensational all week, and surely this week will have given us some nice racing form, which means I’m really excited for what’s to come. However, first things first – now it’s time to rest, recover well and start thinking about País Vasco later on.”
Jesús Herrada: “The prologue made things start pretty well for us, yet I wasn’t so lucky into the first road stage: at the dirt sections, I suffered a puncture, the Mavic car didn’t see me and I lost those four minutes. Still, I didn’t want to stop trying it, and I’m leaving this race happy with all I did throughout the week – legs felt quite well.
“We tried again to be on the break today and also to contest the stage win. Ion was with the top GC guys when Contador set that early pack that so few people could stand, and even though he went away with Porte into the last kilometers, we only lacked some meters to bring them back. It’s obviously sad, not having been able to fight for the win into the sprint, yet we’re happy as Ion got that top-five overall and also the team GC, a proof of our good overall level. Despite being so unlucky, with Lobato’s knee problems, the crash by Rojas… we always get to show this good teamwork.
“On an individual point of view, I showed again I’ve got the legs for that first win I’m neglected, but things are even harder here in Paris-Nice: the best were riding here. We were close, though, and we must remain happy.”