What a difference 48 hours make. Two days ago, Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) sat into a team car on a snowbound Stelvio and considered abandoning the Giro d’Italia. On Thursday, he claimed a stage victory at Rifugio Panarotta and shored up the blue jersey of best climber to put a cap on a race of wildly fluctuating fortunes.
“I have had difficult times during this Giro and I’ve even thought of abandoning,” said Arredondo, who had started the Giro’s tappone over the Gavia and Stelvio on Tuesday on the attack only to reach Val Martello almost three-quarters of an hour down.
“Two days ago, on the Stelvio, I thought I’d finish last,” Arredondo said, paying tribute to the encouragement of directeur sportif Josu Larrazabal. “Josu put me in the car, warmed me up, and gave me the courage to start again.”
Arredondo had Larrazabal offering moral support in more amenable circumstances on Thursday, and he said that instructions from the team car had been pivotal in helping him to cope with the stiff final climb to Rifugio Panarotta.
“At the foot of the final climb, I wanted to attack, but Josu told me to wait,” Arredondo said. “Then, much higher up, he said, ‘Julián, now!’ So I won the stage because of his advice.”
Arredondo’s decisive acceleration came a shade under four kilometres from the summit following a ding-dong battle with fellow countryman Fabio Duarte (Colombia) and the impressive Philip Deignan (Sky), who were all part of the stage’s early break. After a day – indeed, an entire Giro – on the attack, he finally landed the victory he had promised.
“My main goal was to win a stage in the Giro d’Italia,” said Arredondo, who came agonisingly close after attacking over the Carpegna en route to Montecopiolo on the eighth stage. “I tried in breakaways in the first week, and at Montecopiolo, I was caught two kilometres from the finish.”
That effort in the Apennines was enough to put Arredondo into the blue jersey of mountains leader, and he has been a seemingly permanent presence in early breaks on mountain stages ever since in a bid to shore up his lead. “I had the maglia azzurra and that’s why I joined the breakaway today in the first place, and I went over the first two categorised climbs [the Passo San Pellegrino and the Passo del Redebus] in first place, but I didn’t imagine for a second that today would be my day.”
Arredondo’s road to the upper echelons of the sport has been a long one and though 25 years of age, 2014 marks his first season in the WorldTour. Trek signed him up on the back of his victory in the overall standings in the UCI Asia Tour in 2013, and he has made an assured start to life in the top flight, with strong showings at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Ardennes classics.
“I’ve been through difficult periods in my career. I was 6th in the under-23 standings as an amateur in Italy, but nobody wanted to sign me,” Arredondo said. “I called Team Colombia, who said they’d call me back, but never did.”
Instead, Arredondo found a home at the lowly Team Nippo, where he announced himself with victory in the Tour de Langkawi last year. “Little by little, the path has led me to moments of glory,” he said.
The vanquished Duarte, meanwhile, of the very Colombia team that passed up on Arredondo, was generous in his praise of the stage winner. “Congratulations to Arredondo, who rode a great stage,” Duarte said. “But it’s a pity for us, because I think our Giro deserves a stage win.”