By Monika Prell
Making good on his intentions, Koldo Fernández de Larrea (Euskaltel - Euskadi) earned a stage win on the last day of the Vuelta a Murcia. The 26 year-old Basque rider won the mass sprint ahead of Australian Graeme Brown (Rabobank) and the Argentinean Juan José Haedo (CSC). He was overjoyed after the finish.
"The work of my team-mates was impeccable, I am very satisfied. This took a load off my mind," the winner said according to the team's website www.fundacioneuskadi.com.
It was Fernández' second win as professional rider; his first was the final stage of the Tirreno Adriatico in 2007. "My team-mates worked for me during the entire race, and to be able to celebrate this victory with them is very important," said Fernández de Larrea. "In today's stage they helped me to survive the last ascent while doing the least amount of work possible. Then, 300 meters before the finish, "Samu" [Sánchez] said to me, 'Come on, come on! Sprint!'"
"This year I really needed a win," the stage victor reflected. "The victory in Tirreno Adriatico helped me, but I really changed my approach during the Vuelta a España. I realised that I can't wait for what the others do. When the stars of this discipline accelerate, you can't do anything, because they already are at the top and it is very difficult to beat them. For this reason, I have to try my luck when I think that it is the right moment." Fernández de Larrea said the new approach allows him to "be more routine in the races" and be "more self-confident and more experienced".
Looking to the upcoming Vuelta a Castilla y León, the Spring Classics and the Giro d'Italia, Fernández said, "Now I have a little pause before participating in the Vuelta a Castilla y León. This is a race with a very selective route. I don't know if there will be many possibilities for a sprint, but if so, we will try to be in the fight."
"I still have to improve my competition form. The Giro d'Italia is my big objective in this first part of the season, and I still need more to get into perfect shape," said the young sprinter.
Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde kept his overall leader's jersey and won the final general classification. Stefano Garzelli (Acqua Sapone - Caffè Mokambo) and Alberto Contador (Astana) finished second and third in the general classification.
See full coverage of the final stage of the Vuelta a Murcia.