Vuelta a San Juan (et. 5)
Movistar Team executes strategy to perfection at San Juan’s Queen stage as superb Winner claims double prize in stage win -the Blues’ first success in 2019- and race lead with two days remaining in Argentina.
A victory built over a base of extreme commitment from all pieces of a perfectly engineered machine. The Movistar Team turned upside down the general classification of the 2019 Vuelta a San Juan with a teamwork exhibition through the end of Friday’s Queen stage, 169km from San Martín to the almost-2,600m-high Alto Colorado. Winner Anacona, a loyal domestique for his leaders all season long, finally had a chance to become the Blues’ reference by claiming a well-deserved stage victory and the blue-white leader’s jersey with two stages remaining in Argentina.
Jorge Arcas, Carlos Barbero and Eduardo Sepúlveda took the lead in the bunch with just over 30km from the finish, trying to protect the team’s main hopes into the crosswinds and later bringing back a fifteen-man breakaway, which started the climb (19km, 4.5% avg.) with a 3′ gap. Near the foot of the ascent, 14km before the end, came Anacona’s acceleration, initially trying to test the favourites’ legs and eventually helping him achieving success.
An excellent job by Richard Carapaz -4th in the stage, 6th overall after joining a counter-attack alongside Óscar Sevilla (MDE)- and Nairo Quintana, now 8th in the GC, released some pressure off Anacona’s shoulders, the Colombian entirely focused on securing the GC lead but ultimately surprising Medellín duo Óscar Paredes and Christian Montoya to claim the Blues’ first 2019 success. A win that could become two, should Anacona overcome the two flat stages, likely to experience strong gusts of wind, on Saturday and Sunday.
REACTION / Winner Anacona:
“I feel so happy about this victory. It’s been four years since the last time I won, and this is a big moment for me. This was one of my main goals for 2019 – claiming a victory – and I’m so glad to have achieved it so early. I feel at ease when I work for my team-mates, both Nairo and the rest of the team, but I can’t deny this was an aspiration of mine, and it should give me confidence to move forward and become a better rider. And indeed, this win was a consequence of perfect teamwork. They protected me well, they gave me the confidence I needed, and I can’t thank them enough for their work for me.
“This was a stage we had to take advantage from – the only mountain-top finish, the last chance. My attack was our plan to test the waters, to see how our rivals were doing, and I didn’t think I could reach too far. However, and once I built a decent gap, everything just went like we wanted to. Nairo was telling me through the earpiece: ‘Go on, everything’s alright here, everything’s under control, no one is really chasing behind.’ He looked after me, he covered the attacks, added problems to our rivals’ work. I was feeling great, even if the long attack made for a very hard final kilometers. It’s not a really steep climb, you’re always at nearly 30kph, yet there’s not much shelter, and the winds become a crucial enemy. In that situation, I was only thinking about aiming at the GC lead, I was thinking one of the two Medellín riders would beat me into the sprint – but I had good legs in the end and took what’s also a surprise victory for me. I’m so happy to have claimed both the stage and the lead.
“Now we’ve got to defend this jersey. There’s nothing sealed before we cross the last finish line, though the stages remaining are not too complicated, rather than sprinter-suited ones. I think we’ve got a strong team to defend ourselves. We must stay near the front and avoid any incidents through Sunday. For the time being, I’m just thinking about enjoying this victory and thanking everybody who roots for me, especially my team and my family, my wife and my kids, for always being by my side.”