Igor Antón: “I don’t have the form of last year”
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Igor Antón: “I don’t have the form of last year”

by Ben Atkins at 4:57 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Euskaltel-Euskadi leader loses time on the Vuelta’s first mountain stage

igor antonIgor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was one of the biggest losers on stage three of the Vuelta a España to the top of Sierra Nevada. The Euskaltel-Euskadi captain started the race with the hope of taking the overall victory in Madrid, but he lost 1’38” to stage winner Daniel Moreno (Katusha), and 1’27” to the rest of the overall favourites for the race.

Antón now trails race leader Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) by 2’44”, and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) by 1’51”. While the race is far from over, he admits that things are now much more difficult.

“I tried to lose as little time as I could,” Antón said immediately after the stage. “I’m not in the same condition as last year but the team is riding very well. They behaved in a phenomenal way surrounding me all the time. We learn from everything. Considering the time I’ve lost today, it’s going to be very difficult to win the Vuelta but there’s still a long way to go. I didn’t climb well today but I’ve limited the damage and I haven’t lost too much.”

Having returned to the team hotel, Antón had had time to reflect on what had gone wrong on the long, tough climb.

"Today was very complicated,” he said. “Already on the stage to Totana [stage three – ed] I didn’t have the best feelings but managed to save the day, but today it was impossible to stay at the front. I have not had the best legs and have lost some important time for the overall.”

As soon as Antón had lost contact with the rear of the peloton, with a little under ten kilometres still to climb, teammates Amets Txurruka and Gorka Verdugo dropped back to nurse him up to the finish. He had to call them back on several occasions, once, ironically as he was riding over his name written all over the tarmac, but they managed to limit his losses in the end.

“My teammates did a great job and I would have lost more time if it were not for them,” said Antón. “Verdugo picked me up really well and supported so I didn’t lose more time.”

With an almost two minute deficit to his main rivals, Antón literally has a mountain to climb in order to fulfil his seasons aim of winning the Vuelta.

“Although we can’t rule anything out, it’s a lot of time to lose,” he admitted. “A minute and a half is a very important difference to take into account. The Vuelta has only just begun and I do not want to think too much about this issue. We must be calm, ride a good race and shouldn’t rush to any conclusions. Now it's time to recover and tomorrow is another day.”

The fifth stage finishes Valdepeñas de Jaén, the scene of Antón’s first stage victory in the 2010 race. Despite the great memory of that day, the Basque admits that a repeat this time is highly unlikely.

“I don’t have the form of last year, but it is clear that the memories are beautiful,” he explained. “I won the stage, and took the [points] leader’s jersey [he would take the red leader’s jersey four days later – ed]. It was a very exciting and of course it brings me pleasant memories."

The best placed rider in the Euskaltel-Euskadi team is now Mikel Nieve, who finished with the favourites and now sits in 14th overall.

"The heat is doing much damage,” said Nieve. “I felt good on the climb to Sierra Nevada and saved a difficult day. When Nibali went I followed his wheel, but I saw that people were very strong and so I didn’t try anything. I simply stayed in the group with the leader, which was not easy.

“Tomorrow we Valdepeñas, more heat...” he added. “This Vuelta is going to be a very demanding one."

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