Despite bad luck with crashes, Movistar Team closes home race satisfied as young riders continue to grow and show commitment and fighting spirit over the three weeks of racing
The Movistar Team put an end on Sunday to a 2017 Vuelta a España full of remarkable experiences for the young riders in its roster. Despite the bitter taste left by not being able to claim a stage win they truly deserved, the lads directed by Chente García Acosta and Pablo Lastras left a great impression with their sacrifice and commitment, even if crashes during the first half of the race left the team down to six as Betancur, Arcas and Rubén Fernández withdrew.
The six breakaways by José Joaquín Rojas –2nd in Alhama, 3rd in Cuenca and Antequera– and Marc Soler –3rd in Alcossebre– were the best representation of a group which saw its youngest members grow dramatically as sportsmen during the race. Other than Soler, great performances were done by Richard Carapaz -really solid into the mountains, up with the GC contenders in some of the most grueling climbs in the race- and Antonio Pedrero, who took an impressive leap forward in the toughest stages.
With no real GC references, the Blues’ two veterans on course –Dani Moreno (18th) and Rojas himself (22nd)- were the top Movistar Team finishers and helped, together with Oliveira -also into breaks all over the three weeks of racing-, nurture a youthful, courageous Movistar Team in the Vuelta.
“For me it’s been really exciting to be part of such a big event as the Vuelta. My overview of these three weeks of racing is that I’ve confirmed I’ve got the skills, but I must keep working and improving. I’ve been close to some of the best and that’s a huge achivement already. Not that I’ve been surprised to do well in the mountains, as it’s my thing and I reached the race in good condition. On the other hand, though, the lack of experience has played a bit against me at times. Being up there is already a huge statement to build my career from and hopefully being able to contest these races in the future. I see myself as a three-week competitor, I’ve really liked the Vuelta. Should I have to keep only one memory from this race, I’d choose yesterday’s stage. I really struggled a lot, but enjoyed it all the way. The Angliru was so beautiful, I will never forget it.”
“It’s been a ‘different’ Vuelta a España for me, as we didn’t a have a major leader to support. We had to race differently and seek for little big goals. In my case, though, the crash in Tarragona ruined what was my biggest objective, which was finishing up there with the top contenders overall. I had always finished within the top ten when supporting a stronger leader and it was a goal for me to try and chase such a place now that we didn’t have a big leader to help, but it wasn’t to be. The crash really undermines your potential, your body doesn’t react well, and it was a huge shame because I was in really good condition. It wasn’t until week three into the race when I felt back in good condition and started performing well. The team was always into the breaks, with one, two, even three riders – that, considering we only had six left after one week of racing, is super hard in itself, and really gives credit to the team’s courageous spirit. We even came close to winning the team GC, which would have been a nice reward for all of our efforts.”
“It was quite a tough Vuelta, with lots of fighting even for the breaks every day – there were few sprint stages, so chances for many teams to get a stage victory were even more restricted. We were so unlucky with crashes and that made it harder to go for the win we deserved. Personally, I feel a bit sad because I couldn’t do my best here. I made some mistakes: I went all-in in the beginning because I thought I could have a chance at obtaining a good GC result. Now it’s become obvious it’s not my thing at all, and my plan on GTs from now on must be to let the top guys go by in the beginning and then go for breakaway stage wins later on. That wear I put on myself early in the race and some sort of flu on week two really took the better of me on the final days, most notably at the TT. I was excited to go for the win there and I actually did one of my worst time trials ever. It’s still my eighth consecutive GT finish – I’ve got to the end of all eight I’ve ridden – and that’s why I’m still feeling a bit happy, because at least I could make it to Madrid.”
“I’m satisfied with my performances here. I came to the race with an aim to learn and help my team-mates out, and I think I accomplished both of them. I could make it into some escapes and I also kept the pace of the GC guys at some mountain stages. I honestly thought I’d feel weaker on week three, but I finished the race off pretty strong. The fact that we didn’t have a major leader to cover might have helped us ease the foot off the gas at some points of the race and save energy for the end. The general outcome for the team has been really good, even though we didn’t took a stage win. The crashes by Betancur and Arcas did really hurt us from a morale point of view, but the rest of the team worked well to make up for it methinks. On a personal note, I was angry at myself on Friday when I couldn’t keep the pace into the break as we rode to Gijón. It made it even worse to get dropped into a descent. It’s all part of a learning process, I guess – let’s hope I don’t make such mistakes again. The revelation of this race? I don’t know if I can consider myself as that. I saw myself doing well, riding with top contenders at some points, but it’s obviously easier when you don’t have to stay with them at every single stage and can enjoy some ‘leisure’ days without any pressure.”
“I think we must feel really happy abouth how we rode in the Vuelta, both myself and the whole team, even if we came here with an aim of winning a stage and we didn’t fulfil that promise – crashes, bad luck and so many close calls, most of which were my fault. I was many times near that win, but there was always someone stronger than me. Even so, I’ve proven I’ve got the strength and courage that it takes to win at some points, and I will keep on trying again as soon as I can. We have re-discovered a role in me I had really forgotten, many previous seasons spent on domestique roles. I had to switch my focus and help the young guys how to move inside a race. They all behaved really well, listening to everything the staff and I suggested and reacting well to different race situations. When you see a team of young riders so fired up and ready to go when they get off the bus, you know your work is paying off. The guys have done an impressive job, and we’ve been a really offensive team. It’s also been a special Vuelta for me, because Sunday marks exactly one year after I fractured my leg at this very race. I spent six months trying to recover, with many bad moments during that process, thinking I would never make it back to the level I had prior. Now, I’d say my condition is even better than back then.”
“I’m really happy about how things have gone during this Vuelta for me. It’s true that we didn’t get off to a good start, as we did everything wrong in Andorra. I had planned on the race to start not so fast and offensive from already day three, and then everything exploded and I couldn’t follow. I was fortunate enough, though, to turn things back soon, getting into breaks, fighting for some stage wins and helping my team-mates out. We came here to learn and fight, and we continued to do so until the very end. The team rode really strong, seeking for success in all stages, always near the front. Yesterday’s crash was a big shame, because I was feeling strong and it was a good day for me to see how my body would react to all the efforts. Obviously, it would have been really hard to even contest the win, but without that crash in El Cordal, I think I’d have been closer to that goal. Honestly, thought, Contador was so fast at the Angliru, and even without crashing it would have been so hard to keep his pace. The most important experience from that day for me is acknowledging I’m able to stay with the top guys after twenty days of racing – that’s an encouraging sign for my career.”
Tour of Britain: Another fighting day from Gorka Izagirre
Lars Boom (TLJ) took overall honours in the 2017 Tour of Britain on Sunday after stage eight -180km from Worcester to Cardiff- saw rain and strong winds making even a race finish remarkable for most. Barely thirty riders survived into the peloton after the hilly first half of the race in Wales, before Gorka Izagirre took off into a two-man attempt with Stewart (SKT) with about 50km from the end.
The control by the teams with sprinters prevented the Basque allrounder, already on the move in Saturday’s finale, from entering the final lap in Cardiff in the lead after a really fine effort. Daniele Bennati took 12th at the bunch kick, won by Edvald Boasson Hagen (DDD), with Jonathan Castroviejo in an identical twelfth spot overall after making it into the bunch, together with the Italian and a strong Imanol Erviti (16th in the GC).