06/25/2021 at 7:21 PM CEST
Between the rain and the Breton fog, around the city of Brest, where the Tour begins, 17 Spanish cyclists are discovered. They train between winter weather (barely 14 degrees) but with the intention of saving this year the French round where Spanish cycling is playing it after two editions without even adding any stage victory. Since Omar Fraile, champion of Spain, in the Astana team, won the Mende stage in 2018 no other cyclist born in the south of the Pyrenees has raised his arms at a finish in the ‘Grande Boucle’.
The options to stand out and even to fight for the podium of the race go through the legs of Enric Mas, fifth last year and who yesterday acknowledged that he came to the Tour better than in 2020. The genius and the figure, at 41, correspond to Alejandro Valverde, the last Spanish cyclist who stepped on the box of the Champs Elysees there in 2015 and the surprise option concerns two young riders, both 25 years old, perfectly prepared to win stages and who are Iván García Cortina (Movistar) and Álex Aranburu (Astana). Both are handled perfectly in flat arrivals without excessive sprinters, although everything will depend on the work that they have to do for the leaders of their squads.
Just yesterday and in order to leave no doubt that what happens on this Tour they continue to trust cycling, Telefónica announced that the Movistar team will continue for two seasons, until 2023, in the year of the 11th campaign of the now blue team where they have added 309 victories.
“Until 2018 we were a privileged country when it came to getting victories on the Tour. Spanish cycling has always lived in cycles and when a great rider has retired, a promise immediately appeared so I am sure that on this Tour, both we as a team or Spanish cycling as a whole, will meet again with a victory & rdquor ;, Eusebio Unzué, Movistar manager, commented yesterday. “Now it has happened that a country like Slovenia that had never excelled in this sport leads the two main candidates to win in Paris & rdquor ;, added the Navarrese coach.
Indeed, Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic are the two main contenders for victory But behind them the range of options is more open, despite the very strong level that the Ineos team presents with Geraint Thomas, winner in 2018, and Richard Carapaz, winner of the 2019 Giro, at the helm. And this is where the Mallorcan Mas, 26, can find a place to fight for the general.
“I’m much better physically than in 2020 when I was fifth, that’s why I come to the Tour looking at the box and with the intention that, unlike last year, it’s not about holding out on the mountain with the best but about being more aggressive. I know I can be more ambitious. Anything that is improving the fifth place brings me closer to the podium & rdquor ;, acknowledged Mas in Brest.
With the Mikel Landa’s absence, who has not been able to recover in time After the serious fall suffered in the Giro, two other Basque cyclists, Ion Izagirre (Astana) and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain) are aspiring to stage victories and even being able to achieve an honorable position in the general classification.
And in the first stage, which circulates along roads near the Breton beaches, better prepared to grow oysters than to bathe in this winter weather Valverde is among the contenders for the first stage victory, rewarded with the yellow jersey, as happened, also in Brittany, in 2008, when the Murcian runner won the stage and dressed for the first and only time in the race leader’s ‘jersey’.
Alberto Contador, now retired, won the last Spanish Tour in 2010, although months later he lost the victory due to the sad episode of the ‘Irún sirloin’. Officially, the Madrid cyclist is the winner of the 2009 Tour, a year after the triumph of Carlos Sastre and two seasons after his first victory, which came after the French round won by Óscar Pereiro (2006) after the elimination of Floyd Landis.