Andrey Amador celebrated a historic day for Costa Rican cycling by becoming the first rider from the Central American country to wear the Giro d'Italia pink race leader's jersey but also promised loyalty and dedication to his Movistar team leader Alejandro Valverde.
Amador fought hard to stay with the select lead group of overall contenders on the little-known but steep climbs in the Julian Alps of northern Friuli. He was dropped on the final climb but chased back and took the pink jersey from Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep), who also fought all day but finished 50 seconds back. Amador pulled on the maglia rosa and now leads the talented Luxembourg rider by 26 seconds.
"It's a special day for me and it's a historic day for Costa Rican cycling. I'm really happy to be in pink after 13 hard stages and be up with the favourites to win the Giro d'Italia," Amador said with pride.
"Even though we're a small country there's a cycling tradition in Costa Rica. Former riders like Federico Ramirez and Adrian Bonilla helped me climb the mountain in the world of professional cycling and helped me race in Spain. We're trying to develop cycling and grow internationally. I know that people at home are there supporting me through the good and bard times, I know they're to help me."
Amador leads Alejandro Valverde by 43 seconds as the overall contenders are set to tackle the queen stage of the Giro d'Italia in the spectacular Dolomites on Saturday. Amador finished fourth in the 2015 Giro d’Italia but put aside his personal ambitions and vowed loyalty to Valverde and the Movistar team.
"We came to the Giro d'Italia with Alejandro as the undisputed leader. We know the phenomenal rider that he is and that the team is in great shape," he said.
"We've still got to think about tomorrow yet but I hope that Alejandro is my grand successor in the pink jersey. I know who I am and where I come from, so I have no problem dedicating myself to help Alejandro. I'll give him 100% support and help him to achieve our goal of having the pink jersey on stage 21 in Turin. We've got it on the 13th stage and that is a great start."
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Aggressive racing by Movistar
The Movistar team rode aggressively throughout the stage to Cividale del Friuli, placing Giovanni Visconti in the break of the day. He fought for mountain points with Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini), crashed in one sprint and finished second on the stage behind Mikel Nieve (Team Sky), moving up to thirteenth in the overall classification. It was a collective show of strength by the Spanish squad, in response to Vincenzo Nibali’s equally strong Astana team that flexed their sky blue muscles on the final climb.
"I don't think Visconti missed the win by much. He was very strong and then the other guys were there to help me and Alejandro. I think our tactics were good. We've got the jersey and Alejandro is well-placed, and so now the situation is the best it can be."
"I'm not a pure climber and I suffer after one or two attacks, so I followed my own pace on the final climb. I knew I'd lose some time but I also knew that I could get it back on the decent because I’m a good descender. Alejandro was also upfront to slow the pace and to help me get back on, so that I could become the leader by a few seconds. It wasn’t a super day for me but I managed to take advantage of it and get the pink jersey. Now, we'll see what will happen tomorrow in the big, big stages."