Photos from OPQS Pro Cycling Team.
Omega Pharma — Quick-Step rider, Carlos Verona rounds off his La Vuelta experience and tells us what he learned on his first ever grand tour.
Carlos Verona Rider Journal: I am writing my final blog from Santiago de Compostela, the host city for the last stage of this Vuelta España edition. This city is famous for being the final point of «El Camino de Santiago» a medieval pilgrim route that starts in the Pyrenees and finishes here. We did not start this tour in the Pyrenees, but in a certain way I feel like I have done my own “Camino de Santiago”. This experience of racing more than 3,000kms on the Spanish roads has been simply fantastic.
We started three weeks ago in Southern Spain, in the nice city of Jerez de La Frontera. During our time in Andalucía we passed along beautiful beaches in the Costa del Sol in Malaga, we climbed some tough mountains around Sierra Nevada, and we headed north through changing landscapes of olive trees to green valleys in Valdelinares. During stage 10 we enjoyed the Atlantic Coast and the beautiful green mountains of Northern Spain.
Throughout the tour we have climbed; San Miguel de Aralar, Lagos de Covadonga, La Camperona, La Cobertoria, Farrapona, but without doubt the hardest KOM of La Vuelta was the last mountain we encountered, which we summitted on the penultimate day; “Ancares”. In Spain this mountain is called the “Spanish Mortirolo”, so if you are coming to watch the World Championships in Ponferrada I invite you to bring your bike with you and tackle this mountain, it is not so far from where it will be held. But I do suggest you use a compact! I rode it with a 39×32 and it was not enough, in some parts of the ascent I was not able to produce more than 50rpm. It has without doubt been the hardest climb of La Vuelta.
Unfortunately it has not been a good Vuelta a España for my team, Omega Pharma – Quick-Step. Everything was going well up to and including the time trial in Borja on stage 10, where Tony Martin won the stage and our leader for the GC, Rigoberto Uran was placed second, keeping one foot in podium places. However, from that day on, 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. That day was very hard for all the team. A lot of hard work had already been put in and because of an unlucky illness, our leader was out of the race. During that day the whole team was giving full support to Rigoberto so he could come back to the bunch, he managed to stay longer than everybody expected with the best riders. But without health there is nothing more he could do and on this day he lost 15 minutes, and our team lost any chance of achieving its main goal for La Vuelta.
Rigo was forced to abandon the tour on the 17th stage due to the bronchitis, and for me, it was maybe the hardest moment of the entire tour. I had to say goodbye to my roommate earlier than 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 so that he has a chance of being at the start of the World Championships Team Time Trial, where he will be an important part of the team as they try to win the World Title for the fourth year in a row.
On the other hand my favorite moments of La Vuelta for me personally have to be the two occasions where I was part of really difficult breakaways on stage 9 and stage 14. In both of these I had the chance to fight for the victory (in the 14th I was placed 9th), these experiences have given me great race knowledge.
Now I know a bit more about how to manage this kind of situation I hope to be able to win in the future when I find myself in a breakaway. Another good moment has been supporting Rigoberto, I like to work hard and for a leader like him who always offers kind words for his team mates it is so rewarding. I hope next year he has more luck and we can come back here again and get a podium place.
Of course another great moment is the fact that I have 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 through here will be really useful for me in the future. In a big tour the way to race is different. You cannot go full gas every day, you need to think about the coming days and also about your role within the team. Cycling is a true team sport, but in a big tour the importance of the team is even more crucial. That is why I love this sport. The nine riders from OPQS that started La Vuelta three weeks ago trained really hard the weeks before the start to contribute to the team success. Everyone has had his own role; to protect the leader against the wind in the flat stages, to stay with the leader in the mountains, to make the sprints, to bring bottles for the others in difficult situations, to win races. I was able to experience and learn a little bit from each of these roles. Now I can say for sure that it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
And that is all from Santiago de Compostela and La Vuelta 2014.
@Carlos_Verona, Omega Pharma – Quick-Step rider
If you missed the first two installments of Carlos Verona’s Rider Journal, we recommend you take a look and keep an eye on this young rider. Follow Carlos on Strava.