Lessons Learned From Both Highs and Lows at La Vuelta
Below is the final blog from Carlos Verona, which was written on Sunday following the 21st and final stage of La Vuelta.
Good morning from Santiago de Compostela, the city which is hosting the last stage of this Vuelta España edition. This city is famous for being the final point of "El Camino de Santiago" a medieval pelegrim route that starts in the Pyrenees and finish here. We have not started in the Pyrenees, but in a certain way I feel like I have done my own "Camino de Santiago". This experience for more than 3,000 km in the Spanish roads has been simply fantastic.
We started three weeks ago in South Spain, in the nice city of Jerez de La Frontera. During our time in Andalucía we passed next to the beautiful beaches of Costa del Sol in Malaga, we climbed some thought climbs next to Sierra Nevada, and we took north direction to change the landscapes of olive threes for green valleys in Valdelinares. Since stage 10 we have enjoyed the brave Atlantic coast and the beautiful and green mountains of north Spain... San Miguel de Aralar, Lagos de Covadonga, La Camperona, La Cobertoria, Farrapona and without doubt the hardest KOM of La Vuelta was the last mountain of this edition, which we climbed yesterday; "Ancares", in Spain this mountain is called the "Spanish Mortirolo", so if maybe you are coming to see the World Championships in Ponferrada I invite you to bring your bike with you and climb this mountain that is not so far from where the next cycling world championships will be! But I suggest you use a compact. I did it yesterday with a 39x32 and it was not enough, in some parts of the climb I was not able to hold on more than 50rpm. It has been the hardest climb of La Vuelta without a doubt.
Unfortunately it has not been a good Vuelta a España for my team, Omega Pharma – Quick Step. Everything was going good until the time trial in Borja in the stage 10th, when Tony Martin won the stage and our leader for the GC, Rigoberto Uran was placed second, keeping one foot in podium place. However after this day, Rigoberto started to feel sick with bronchitis and he did his best but in the queen stage of La Vuelta (16th). He was the first rider to get dropped from the bunch. This day was very hard for all the team. A lot of work was done before and because of an unlucky illness, our leader was out of the race. In that day all the team was giving full support to Rigoberto so he could come back to the bunch, and stay longer than everybody expected with the best riders. But without health there is nothing to do and this day he lost 15 minutes, and our team lost also the main goal for this Vuelta. Rigo was forced to abandon La Vuelta in the 17th stage due to the bronchitis and for me, it was maybe was the hardest moment of La Vuelta. I had to say good bye to my roommate before I expected. But at the end we have to think of the future of the team and the future of Rigo. The most important thing is that he recovers well to try to be at the start of the World Championships Team Time Trial, where he can be an important piece for the team to try to win for a third time in a row the world champion title in this difficult discipline.
On the other hand the favorite moments of La Vuelta for me has been the stages where I could be part of two really difficult breakaways in the stages 9th and 14th. In either one I couldn't fight for the victory (in the 14th I was placed 9th) but at the end both days were a great experiences thinking for the future. Now I know a bit more about how to manage these kind of situations and with more work and experience I hope to be able to win in the future — if I am again in one of these breakaways. Another good moment was that I could support Rigoberto while he was in the race. I like to work and even more for a leader like him, a guy that always has kind words for his teammates. I hope next year he has more luck and we can come back here to try a podium place again.
And that is all from Santiago de Compostela. Of course another great moment has been just the fact that I finished my first big tour. I want to give thanks to my team Omega Pharma – Quick-Step for giving me the opportunity to race a big tour at just 21-years-old. All the experiences that I have lived here, I am sure that it will be really useful for me in the future. In a big tour the way of racing is different to the other races. You cannot go full gas every day, you need to think about the next days and also about your role inside the team. Cycling is a true team sport, but in a big tour the importance of the team is even more. That is why I love this sport. The nine riders from OPQS that started La Vuelta three weeks ago, we trained really hard the weeks before the start to contribute to the team success. Everyone has his own role, ones to protect the leader against the wind in the flat stages, other ones to stay with the leader in the mountains, other ones to make the sprints, other ones to bring bottles for the others in difficult situations, others to win races and others, like me, to learn a little bit of each one of them. Now I can say for sure that it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.