In the final stage of the Vuelta a España the Phonak Cycling Team managed to secure its second top three placing. The rider from western Switzerland, Aurélien Clerc was beaten by Erik Zabel and Thor Hushovd in Madrid. Clerc described himself as "satisfied" with the placing, in a stage that he had targeted to win.
"Already on Friday I said that I wanted to concentrate fully on this final stage. I was able to rest up well. Although there were just five of us left on the team, the team worked incredibly well during the last six laps and always supported me and got me into a good position for the last kilometres. The final 100 metres, my legs were tired but my morale was high. I wanted to win and score the first stage win for Switzerland since 2001. In spite of that, this third place is a great result for all of us. We showed that the Phonak Cycling Team is still here."
Clerc said he suffered through the final week's worth of mountain stages, and it "certainly wasn't very easy. But I'm in good shape and on the day off on Monday I set myself the goal of definitely finishing this tour."
His next goal is the World Championships in Salzburg. "Our national trainer René Savary has offered me a spot as a joker. Compared to other riders, no one is really expecting me to make the race. Often enough the World Championship has been decided in a sprint of a large group. For me, that means keeping my cool and, should it come down to a sprint, being successful. In terms of the Vuelta a España I had a perfect preparation and my morale was high. I always enjoy riding for Switzerland."
Clerc's season won't be finished after the World's, as he will be racing Paris–Bourges and Paris–Tours. "I hope that I will be able to conserve my good form. Last year, I placed sixth at both of those races. This year, I hope to be able to improve on that. I would really love to thank my teammates, the staff and especially Andy Rihs for the wonderful time with Phonak Cycling with another podium spot or even a win."