Lying in fourth position prior to the Pyrenees at the Vuelta a España, Xavier Tondo is confirming that he’s probably the most improved stage race rider of the 2010 season.
“It’s not such a big surprise to find me up there, I think,” said the 31-year-old from Cervélo. “After fifteen days at the Giro, I was third, so I can improve my position here as well.” In Italy he benefited from his part in a 56-man breakaway during the legendary stage 11 to L’Aquila where most of the favourites were caught out. At the Vuelta, he is proving himself to be among the best stage race riders despite having broken a collarbone at the Tour of Poland in August and consequently approaching the Spanish Grand Tour without any guarantees about his condition.
“I feel good”, he told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 10, which passed through his hometown of Valls. “The good thing for me now is that I feel the ability to do a lot of things for Carlos Sastre.”
Tondo insisted that despite having an advantage of 1:29 over Sastre, he remains a domestique at the service of the 2008 Tour de France winner who attracted him to Cervélo at the end of last year. The two Spaniards will go their separate ways next year with two new sponsors in the world of pro cycling as Sastre will join Geox and Tondo has signed a two-year deal with Movistar.
“There’s no other option, I’m here to work for Carlos as had always been planned between us,” Tondo said. “I yet have to finish my first Grand Tour. I’m not afraid of racing for three weeks in a row. At the Giro, I would have liked to have seen what I could achieve in the third week but I got sick and I had to go home. I want to go step by step. What I’m doing here at the Vuelta is also an investment for next season. It will help me to perform better in 2011.”
At the beginning of the Tour of Spain, Tondo made a childhood dream come true when he signed a two-year contract with Eusebio Unzue for Movistar, as this is the continuation of the famous Banesto team of Pedro Delgado and Miguel Indurain that gave him the passion for cycling. In the meantime, the squad has kept going under the names of Iles Balears and Caisse d’Epargne. The new sponsor reached an agreement with Unzue after Luis Leon Sanchez had already committed to Rabobank for next year, but Movistar will be able to count on strong and consistent riders like Tondo.