By Monika Prell
Caisse d'Epargne's team manager Eusebio Unzúe has said the discovery of Vladimir Efimkin in the first 10 days of the Vuelta a España has outweighed hardship the Spanish squad has endured through the first part of the Grand Tour. Efimkin continues to hold second place heading into today's Stage 11, which overshadows the withdrawal of designated team leader and 2006 Tour de France runner-up Oscar Pereiro.
"We've had difficult moments with Oscar Pereiro's abandon," noted Unzúe, talking to the press on the event's first rest day yesterday. "On another side we had very beautiful moments with the discovery of Vladimir Efimkin. So far [Efimkin has] not only brilliantly won the stage of the Lakes of Covadonga, but also defended himself very well with the golden jersey on his shoulders and, having lost it in the time trial of Zaragoza, left the Pyrenees by maintaining the second position on general classification.
"It is a reason for great satisfaction and even if we are still far away from Madrid, we already begin to dream about the possibility to finish on the podium," he added.
Efimkin added that he's pleased with his decision to contest the Grand Tour, after the Russian initially had reservations over contesting the event. "When Eusebio Unzúe called me before the Vuelta to know if I wished to take part I had one moment of doubt because I thought it would be easier for me to get a good result in the Tour of Poland," he confessed. "On another side, I think that it is very important for a rider to acquire experience in the three major tours and thus I chose the Vuelta a España, with the dream of winning a stage."
"Personally, to win the stage of Covadonga has been something wonderful," he added. "That was not easy but on this day I carried out a dream. I will never forget what I felt by crossing the finishing line. I was the happiest man of the world."
The Russian is hopefully of maintaining his podium position through to the event's finale in Madrid on September 23. "Today I occupy the second place on general classification and even if I know that it will not be easy, I hope to be on the podium in Madrid," he concluded.