Sunday, September 09, 2012

Low-key Vuelta concludes

The 2012 Vuelta a España came to a close Sunday afternoon with a 115km ride from Cercedilla to Madrid, and yet again it was a case of the legs, not the courage, that was lacking for Euskaltel.

Mikel Astarloza got into the day's main break on the finishing circuits in the capital, but the small group never really threatened to upstage the sprinters and it came to naught well in time for giant sprinter John Degenkolb to take a sensational fifth stage win of the race. Gorka Verdugo, completing his best ever Grand Tour after being forced out of the Tour through injury, surprisingly decided to mix it up in the dash for the line and came away with 10th. Not too shabby for a climber.

On GC, Antón was forced to settle for a highly disappointing ninth overall on a course that suited him to perfection. Speaking after the stage, the team leader was anything but disappointed though.

"The Vuelta as a whole has been positive", he told the team's website. "I'm happy because it took me some time to get the feel for the race and I learned to overcome the most difficult moments. In this regard, the 2011 Vuelta helped me. I was consistent every day - which was the goal I set out to reach in Pamplona. Things didn't go well at Valdezcaray and in the Pontevedra time trial, here I lost the time that prevented me to be higher up overall, but I was competitive the other days. I lost time both days, but I didn't stop fighting and looking towards the future with optimism. In the mountainous stages I wasn't far behind the three strongest ones, and I performed well at my preferred terrain".

Due in good part to Gorka Verdugo (11th overall), Iván Velasco (26th overall) and Amets Txurruka (30th overall), Euskaltel came away with a creditable second place in the team rankings (only beaten by the mighty Movistar). Naturally, DS Álvaro González de Galdeano praised the team's performance afterwards.

"The team performed well, evidenced by the team placing second and Igor's ninth and Gorka's 11th overall, along with the fact that the team leader was always well looked after", the former pro said. "We were at the front in the mountain stages and played our cards against teams with three times our budget. That shouldn't be forgotten. Rubén (Pérez) was second at Lagos de Covadonga, Romain (Sicard) was fifth at the Bola del Mundo, Igor (Antón) was close to the best on every stage in the mountains... We always want more, to improve, but we've raced against high-level competition every day".

The fact that the team failed to finish on the overall podium or to grab a stage since 2007, should worry the team management, who's quest for WorldTour points in their home Grand Tour was everything but a success. The lack of points obtained might well result in the team bosses looking even more towards foreign riders to secure the team's status at the top table. Anyway, there were quite a few positives to take from the race, and here's what I consider to be the three most positive aspects of the team's performance:
  1. Iván Velasco's ride: got through a three-week race (which for him alone isn't bad) in a noteworthy 26th overall, climbed well throughout and was there at some key moments when Antón needed him. A crash-free end to the season should bode well for next year.
  2. Romain Sicard's consistency: he might not have drawn the most attention in Spain, but Sicard's first Grand Tour can only be classified as a success. Looked solid in the first half of the race, faltered a bit afterwards, but ended the race with a bang with fifth at Bola del Mundo. 44th overall wasn't bad for a rider highly unimpressive the whole year prior to the race.
  3. Team performance: like Galdeano said, the team took care of its leader and more than ever looked like a proper GT team. The team looked like a well-drilled machine with clear orders. Improvement.
Stage 21 results (full results here):
  • (1, John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), 2:44:57)
  • 10, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 57, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 59, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 77, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 89, Iván Velasco, s.t.
  • 90, Amets Txurruka, s.t.
  • 105, Romain Sicard, s.t.
  • 119, Mikel Landa, 0:25
  • 130, Mikel Astarloza, 0:32
Final general classification:
  • (1, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), 84:59:49)
  • 9, Igor Antón, 14:01
  • 11, Gorka Verdugo, 16:22
  • 26, Iván Velasco, 48:42
  • 30, Amets Txurruka, 55:01
  • 44, Romain Sicard, 1:33:05
  • 48, Mikel Astarloza, 1:38:48
  • 50, Juan José Oroz, 1:39:53
  • 69, Mikel Landa, 2:03:12
  • 75, Rubén Pérez, 2:10:05
Points classification:
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 199)
  • 16, Igor Antón, 49
  • 20, Gorka Verdugo, 43
  • 28, Rubén Pérez, 31
  • 60, Romain Sicard, 12
  • 65, Mikel Astarloza, 10
Mountains classification:
  • (1, Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge), 63)
  • 16, Rubén Pérez, 10
  • 31, Romain Sicard, 4
Combination classification:
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 8)
  • 22, Rubén Pérez, 119
  • 29, Romain Sicard, 135
Teams classification:
  • (1, Movistar, 254:52:4)
  • 2, Euskaltel, 9:40
  • (3, Ag2r, 20:19)
Photo: @Vuelta


Kristof said...

I don't see it as a good result. Gorka Verdugo by far our best man, only 9 seconds away from top 10, such a shame. As said before it was a big mistake to let him wait couple of times, it surely costs him a top 10 place. They should have more attacked and not always looked to Anton.

Magnus said...

Agreed! He was obviously not going well from the start, should have changed approach earlier

Stephen said...

Poor result for the team but still a great race overall, lots more attacking that we have seen in the other GT's

Sadly, barring Samu, we just don't seem to have a top 5 contender at the moment.

Colin millar said...

A little disappointing no stage wins
but over all a very strong showing from the team finishing 2nd in the team classification

the future is bright the future is orange!!!!!!


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