Vuelta a España: Piedra rock-solid in taking top career win
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Monday, September 3, 2012

Vuelta a España: Piedra rock-solid in taking top career win

by Shane Stokes at 6:39 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
Engineering student scoops life-changing win at Lagos de la Covadonga

Antonio PiedraIt was the stuff of dreams: a rider on one of the smallest teams in the race clocking up the biggest success of his career in his country’s national Tour. Caja Rural got a wildcard invitation to the Vuelta but thanks to Antonio Piedra’s infiltration of the day’s break plus a strong attack on the final climb, he single-handedly justified his team’s inclusion.

“I’ll struggle to realize what I’ve done,” the 26 year old beamed after the finish. “It’s a great joy but I can’t believe it’s true. It hasn’t really registered.. It took us a lot of time to increase the gap in favour of our breakaway; I think a crash helped us to do so. Once we had built a gap of fifteen minutes over the peloton, it became clear that the stage win would be between us in the breakaway.”

Of the ten riders in the move, two were from Caja Rural; Piedra and David de la Fuente. He was clearly going well in soloing to victory, but didn’t hesitate to praise his team-mate for his contribution. “We were confident that we could cap it off…when the breakaway group got reunited, I tried my luck. I managed to get a gap because David was sensational in covering all the counter-attacks. He marked all the other breakaway riders, he was following all the accelerations. He was incredible.”

Piedra’s hit the line at Lagos de Covadonga two minutes and two seconds head of the next riders, Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel – Euskadi), Lloyd Mondory (AG2R La Mondiale) and De La Fuente. The result dwarfs everything he has done to date; in 2009 he won stage five of the Volta a Portugal, last season he was second on a stage and eighth overall in the Tour de san Luis, and this year he beat Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEdge) to win the 1.1 ranked Rogaland GP in Norway.

He’s ridden the Vuelta for the past three seasons, with a best performance of twelfth into Murcia in 2009.

Piedra, whose name means stone or rock in English, admitted that he had doubts that he could pull off the stage win. “I was a little bit afraid of la Huesera [the steepest part of the final climb – ed.],” he said. “I feared that the other riders could catch me there but in reality, my lead kept growing. So I understood that I was doing it for real.”

In all likelihood his career has forever changed yesterday. Winning the stage will guarantee him a bigger salary next season, and could well lead to offers from other teams. He’s young enough to keep improving for another three or four more years, so he should go on to more big successes.

The first priority is to savour the triumph, though, and to then work out what he will do next. “Now I want to enjoy what I’ve achieved, and take time to think about my future as a cyclist,” he said. “I yet have to complete my studies as well. I’ve done four and half years out of five in industrial engineering.”

On the basis of yesterday, it’s unlikely he’ll have to rely on that career anytime soon.


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