By Bjorn Haake in Segovia
For the second stage in a row, the Caisse d'Epargne team took the Vuelta a España stage win, both times from a breakaway. On Friday's stage 19, David Arroyo became the team's third stage victor after Imanol Erviti (stage 18) and Alejandro Valverde (stage 2). As in the case of Erviti's success, teamwork played a role in setting up the victory from a breakaway.
Several riders from Caisse d'Epargne made the 13-man escape, but only Arroyo survived, going clear with Julien Loubet (AG2R) and Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems) on the descent from the Puerto de Navafria.
The plan was to set Valverde up for the stage win and the bonus available on the line in order gain the time necessary to move him ahead of Robert Gesink (Rabobank) into fifth on the general classification. But the determination of Loubet and Kiryienka ensured that the trio stayed clear. Arroyo, not contributing to the effort, took the stage with ease.
Arroyo, who spends much of his time working to help others on his team to victory, valued his chance to experience the spotlight for his first Grand Tour stage win. "Being in the break and then winning the stage is very important to me," he said. "This victory is like compensation for all the work I do day after day, year after year.
"When you start a Grand Tour you also have personal expectations," he explained. "Day after day you work for your leader to make sure he is well placed. And you have to work for the team." When there are chances to work for himself, Arroyo takes them full swing. "There are also days like this when you have the opportunity to go for the victory. And that's what I did today."
Arroyo had come close to tasting victory already. In stage 16 of the Tour de France he finished third, and is well placed in the Vuelta overall at 17th, although that was not the objective. In fact, going to the Vuelta was not even a plan.
Arroyo was supposed to make the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France his two Grand Tours of the year. In the Giro he even had all the freedom to ride for himself. "I was supposed to be the leader at the Giro and have liberties, but I had a small crash before." At the time it was a huge disappointment. But there's always sunshine after rain. "The win today makes up for bad luck like that."
The crash changed his programme to the Tour and the Vuelta instead. The victory in Segovia was something special in his career. "This is the most important victory I have so far."
Handing out teamwork lessons
Caisse d'Epargne had the last two days firmly under control. Yesterday they had two riders in the 18-man break, with the young Imanol Erviti prevailing over Nicolas Roche. And today there were moments when no fewer than four Caisse d'Epargne riders were in the break. The Spanish team was pulling hard on the climbs, making the race hard – even isolating overall leader Alberto Contador and his second placed teammate Levi Leipheimer (Astana) on the final climb.
In the end, it was Arroyo and Vasil Kiryienka who were the only survivors from the breakaway. Kiryienka was demanding a bit more collaboration, but even if Arroyo wanted to, he wasn't allowed. "I explained to him that it was the team's strategy. The idea was to get the victory to Alejandro [Valverde]. So I couldn't pull. Then when we came to the line I knew I had to sprint and I won the race."
Kiryienka is a strong time trialler and showed the ability to pull hard in the finale. But Caisse d'Epargne's tactic played out well. "Kiryienka was a bit innocent taking me to the line like this. He even attacked in the final lap."
Arroyo turned pro with CSC in 2001 and stayed with them until 2003. In 2004 he couldn't find a big team and rode for LA Pecol. But in 2005 Caisse d'Epargne picked him up and neither has regretted this so far. Arroyo was a crucial rider in defending the yellow jersey of Oscar Pereiro in the 2006 Tour de France.
Arroyo finally got a reward for all the sacrifices he has done not only for himself, but also for the Spanish outfit. "I work a lot for the team, so getting this victory is very important to me." He has also noticed a change over the years. "Many people now recognise me. This [victory] is also paying back the fans."