Vuelta a Madrid (st. 1)
Spanish sprinter claims third win of his season -19th for the Blues in 2016- at Vuelta a Madrid opener; excellent job from Laguía-directed squad, Jesús Herrada completes one-two finish
The spring season in Spain keeps bringing success to a sensational Movistar Team, who claimed a one-two in Saturday's opening day of the 29th Vuelta a Madrid, a lumpy 174km loop around the region's western Sierra, finishing in Las Rozas, which the Blues dominated relentlessly, even when the situation seemed less favourable to their interest halfway through the course.
Juanjo Lobato prevailed at the day's sprint after the squad directed by José Luis Laguía had to go after the early attacks, early with Jesús Herrada and later on with Rubén Fernández and Antonio Pedrero into a challenging 18-man escape. Excellent work from Ventoso, Arcas and Soler avoided the group going too far, before Gorka Izagirre strung the bunch out into the second climb of the Cat-2 Alto de la Cruz Verde. The move left only ten riders in pursuit of the leaders, but brilliant technique into the descent by Gorka Izagirre and Jesús Herrada -who went on to finish 2nd today-, combined with good work by both Antonio and Rubén as well as his two team-mates in the closing phase, kept Lobato out of trouble.
The Andalusian -who claimed today his third success of the season, the Blues' 19th so far in 2016- and the whole Movistar Team will do their best to defend the leader's jersey in tomorrow's closing circuit race in Madrid's El Pilar borough, over 19 laps / 95km that are bound to become even harder due to infamous weather forecast for Sunday morning.
Juanjo Lobato: "I think today's victory is the team's, not mine; I just put my name under the stage, but without them, it'd have been impossible to claim. I said during the podium ceremony interview that I'm especially happy because this win confirms I've been able to keep my form constant and victories coming through the last few months. It's always important to win, even if you only do it once, but claiming victories in February, then April, then May… that makes me even happier.
We saw that through the second ascent of El Mojón the peloton was suffering a lot, and we picked up the pace a bit more. Seeing that many riders were left behind and we remained a bit alone, we decided to wait for the Cruz Verde climb, so Ventoso and Arcas could bridge back and do some additional work so we could focus on setting the pace up there. Gorka told me he was going strong and wanted to move into the climb, and that's what he did. I could barely just follow the group's pace, but once we reached the summit, my team-mates saw I could hang on, our move was a good one… and we chose to carry on and pursuit the leaders.
"From that point on, it was impressive: Rubén and Antonio Pedrero kept the second peloton always at two minutes' distance behind, and when the Caja Rural riders started attacking the field with 6-7 kilometers to go, Gorka was incredible. With 2km remaining, Herrada started pulling – he made it so easy for me, 'una barbaridad.'
"I was feeling really well in Australia, but due to some problems there, my start to the season was a bit erratic. I was going to be super strong in Sanremo, but in Andalucía I suffered a small injury due to a crash, which prevented me from being 100% in the month I really wanted to do well in. However, I kept training, got back into good feelings… and that's how these last two victories happened. Any goals for the summer? I don't mind where I'll be racing, to be honest; I trust Eusebio to choose the best way for me to shine."
Picture ©: Federación Madrileña de Ciclismo