Fourth 2018 success for Movistar Team
Basque climber overcomes Bizkaia Durango duo with splendid final Beci climb, claims honours in front of home crowd at Spanish Racing Series’ fourth round.
Hampered by injuries in 2017 and out of racing back in March due to pain to her knee, Eider Merino (Movistar Team) completed a patient return to the top of Spanish racing with a first win of the 2018 season in Blue colours. The young Basque climber has made her comeback in style, with a solo victory in front of her home crowd at the 14th Balmasedako Emakumeen Saria -fourth round of the Spanish Racing Series-, over 80km with six rated ascents.
Merino started her winning action almost 50km from the end, joining a four-rider breakaway also including Alice Maria Arzuffi, Cristina Martínez (BDM) and Julia Casas (PRO). As the group ammassed a gap exceeding 1’30” over the bunch, the Bizkaia riders’ strength in numbers led them to launch one attack after another, trying to leave Eider behind. The Balmaseda native trailed by ten seconds to Arzuffi over the top of the penultimate climb, Avellaneda; however, at the last tough climb to Beci (Cat-2), Merino dropped Martínez back -the only rider left with her as Casas cracked-, reached the Italian town and crested with half a minute’s advantage, enough to take a comfortable solo win.
Eider’s victory is the fourth success in the 2018 season for the Movistar Team, having obtained victories in Noja (García), Roldán and Murcia (Rodríguez). The Blues thus continue to leave their mark in and, most notably, out of Spanish turf with the talent of some of the country’s best athletes. The win was complete with Merino’s respective leads in the QOM and Sprints standings of the Spanish Racing Series, as well the Blues’ splendid overall level, with Lourdes Oyarbide in 5th place and Alba Teruel in 6th.
REACTION / Eider Merino:
“It’s been massive joy for me to take this one. My celebration at the finish was a means of releasing all fury I kept inside, I was just trying to get everything I’ve went through during the last few months out of my body. It hasn’t been an easy race because of that, either – I wanted to just go on the attack and release everything, feel strong again. Bizkaia came to this race with eleven riders and we knew they were going to be the squad to beat, since we were only three ladies and Sopela was also down to two competitors today, as they’re racing in China. Martínez and Arzuffi were the two riders we had to keep an eye on, and as soon as Cristina tried to go off the front, I just followed her wheel, the Italian rider kept mine and we took Casas with us.
“In the finale, they started to play that one-two punch, and Jorge had to calm me down because otherwise, I’d have cracked if I tried to follow every single move. It was better to go on a steady pace into the climbs – as we could see in the last kilometers – even if Arzuffi put some meters on me at the Avellaneda climb and I started thinking as if I had messed things up letting that move go. In the end, remaining calm was key, because at Beci, I just had to attack, take those seconds back and reach the finish solo.
“The people I think the most after this win is my family, because it’s been them who had to put up with my anger, when I wasn’t able to race, and my nervousness when others were shining and I couldn’t be there to ride against them. Tomorrow’s race in Villasana de Mena will be a four-woman operation for us – it’s good to have more riders there, but we’ve already shown that, even if we’re less riders than other teams, we can achieve big things when riding together. I’m already happy with this victory and whatever comes after this will be a plus – now it’s time to enjoy this victory, this feeling to be able to do things I hadn’t done for a while.”