When he crossed the finish line at Cabérceno victorious and punching the air in delight, Dani Navarro (Cofidis) provided a timely reminder that Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) are not the only riders at this Vuelta a España who are trying to put memories of a disappointing Tour de France behind them.
Ninth in the 2013 Tour, Navarro was forced to quit this year’s race on stage 13, suffering from a severely upset stomach. It was his 31st birthday and he could hardly have had a worse present.
Fast forward to stage 13 of the Vuelta and it was a very different story for Navarro, who moved to Cofidis last year in a bid to strike out as a team leader after years of work as a domestique for Alberto Contador and – before him – Alexandre Vinokourov. Following a promising debut as leader in the 2013 Tour, this year was not going well – until Friday’s stage win changed all that. The victory outstrips a stage win at the 2010 Dauphiné as the most important of Navarro’s career.
“It’s my biggest win ever and the truth is that I didn’t expect it. There are a lot of top names here and those short, explosive climbs are not the ones that usually suit me,” Navarro said.
“But thanks to my team I was positioned perfectly going into the climb, and after that great start I could stay away for the win.”
A former teammate of Alberto Contador’s back when he turned professional for Liberty Seguros in 2005, Navarro had made some very vocal protests at the way Contador had chased him down two days ago when he attacked at San Miguel de Aralar.
“I wasn’t happy at all, I got cross, but we sorted it out, that’s racing,” said Navarro, who is now 12th overall. “He does his race, I do mine, and we are in different teams.”
Races sometimes see rivals forming working alliances, too, Navarro pointed out, not just trying to beat each other. As the Asturian rider put it, “there’s still a lot of the Vuelta left to go, and for whatever reason I could end up lending him a hand - or vice versa.”