Vuelta a España: Igor Antón aiming to make up for last year’s “missed opportunity”
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Vuelta a España: Igor Antón aiming to make up for last year’s “missed opportunity”

by Ben Atkins at 11:54 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
Race organiser would love to see a Basque rider wear the red jersey as the Vuelta visits the province for the first time in 33 years

igor antonIgor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was forced to abandon last year’s Vuelta a España with a fractured elbow, having crashed heavily on the 14th stage between Burgos and Peña Cabarga. The incident was particularly cruel for the rider from Galdakao in the Basque country as he was wearing the red race leader’s jersey at the time.

Antón was only leading eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) by 45 seconds at the time, so whether he would have gone on to win is debatable. The crash certainly denied him the chance to try and do so though.

“It was a missed opportunity,” said Euskaltel-Euskadi team manager Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano. “But we’ve built the 2011 season with the belief that Igor can win the Vuelta.”

So far Antón’s season has been solid, if not spectacular, but has obviously been built around arriving at his national Tour in peak form. He followed a third overall in the Vuelta a Castilla y León with fifth at Flèche Wallonne, but the pick of his results in the first half of the year was undoubtedly his victory in Monte Zoncolan on one of the hardest days of the Giro d’Italia.

“For the Giro, I had the ambition to win a stage and no pressure on GC”, Antón explained. “But for the Vuelta, it’s the opposite. The pressure is all for winning GC.”

While the world was watching the Tour de France, and his teammate Samuel Sanchez was winning the mountains jersey there, Antón was reconnoitring several of the Vuelta’s stages.

“I’m looking forward to starting the race in Benidorm after two months of intense preparation”, he said. “We can never plan how the race will go in advance. That’s what I’ve learned from last year but I’m not looking back at the missed opportunity. I just know that I have to remain focused in order to avoid crashes. I hope for a good start like last year.”

In last year’s race, as exchanging the red jersey with Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Antón took two stage victories; at Valdepeñas de Jaen and Vallnord/Pal, Andorra. Should he enjoy the same kind of mid-race success this time, it would certainly please race director Javier Guillén as the race visits Antón’s home region for the first time since 1978.

Guillén’s dream for the race would be: “A Basque rider to wear the red jersey when the Vuelta makes its return to the Basque country after 33 years of absence,” he said.


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