Tour of Austria (finale)
Excellent ‘Balito’ dreams of stage victory atop brutal Kitzbüheler Horn -takes 4th behind winner Vlasov (GAZ)-, claims 2nd in GC behind title holder Ben Hermans (ICA).
Eduardo Sepúlveda came really close to bringing the Movistar Team his maiden victory in Blue colours during the final stage of the 2019 Tour of Austria, a 116km journey towards the top of the brutal Kitzbüheler Horn (7km at 12.3% average gradient), one of the steepest long climbs in continental Europe.
The Argentinian, supported by a fine Movistar Team with a remarkable Rubén Fernández as top domestique for most of the climb, kept his own pace through the entire climb to come incredibly close to both the stage win and the final leaders’ jersey. ‘Balito’ was even able to bridge back -just over 1km before the end- with lone attacker Riccardo Zoidl (CCC), who had led through the second half of the climb.
The enormous effort, leading a GC group which didn’t include any of the top three overall -Winner Anacona, 12th at the finish, went down to 4th the the final standings-, kept Sepúlveda -4th at the finish, 23″ behind Alexander Vlasov (GAZ)- from contesting the win through the grueling final hairpins, yet took him up to runner-up overall -behind Ben Hermans (ICA)-, his best ever result with the Movistar Team. A good end to a week of glory and some bitter moments -both with Carlos Barbero- for the José Luis Jaimerena-led squad.
REACTION / Eduardo Sepúlveda:
“The boys did a really great job. We stayed together all the way up to the foot of the climb, as we have planned at this morning’s meeting. We wanted to keep a good position into the bunch heading into the ascent, and so Rubén Fernández picked up the pace through the early slopes before the first attack by Zoidl. I took the front of the group then, trying to leave Hermans behind and gain an advantage, yet I lacked the energy I needed inside the last kilometer. I even dreamt of winning the stage, there wasn’t much energy between the main contenders in the end, yet Vlasov came back strong and I realized it was going to be tough, so I switched into ‘overall mode’. In the end, I took 2nd place, which is a great result for me and the team. It’s been a great week for us – other than Carlos Barbero’s injury yesterday. I wish him well with his recovery.”
Cover picture (c): Nadine Pfeffer