Tour de San Luis victory not a sure ticket to higher level for Díaz

Argentinian seals overall win

At some point amid the ticker tape next Sunday night, the most valuable player at the Super Bowl will be asked ‘what’s next?’ and – handsomely compensated, of course – he will smile and deliver the immortal line: “I’m going to Disneyland.”

For Tour de San Luis winner Dani Díaz, the next item on his agenda is rather more modest. Life in the America Tour is no theme park. “Well first of all, I’ll take a break, and then I’ll prepare for the Vuelta a Mexico in March,” Díaz said. “The objective for my team is to be high up in America Tour rankings.”

Díaz is an Argentinian triumph that was made in Brazil – he rides for Brazilian Continental outfit Funvic-São José dos Campos – although the question lingers as to whether or not it will eventually lead to a path back to European racing for the man who spent a year with La Pomme-Marseille in 2011.

“As far as going to Europe is concerned, I don’t have any concrete offers but if there is something, I would be happy to go back,” Díaz said after sealing final overall victory on Sunday evening, after a week when his team, swatted away the challenges of some illustrious WorldTour visitors with striking ease in the mountains.

Funvic claimed all three summit finishes on the Tour de San Luis, with Díaz winning atop Mirador del Potrero and the Alto Al Amago before Kleber Da Silva helped himself to stage victory on Saturday’s grand finale at Filo Sierras Comechingones. Indeed, had Alex Diniz, who tested positive for EPO in 2009, not withdrawn suddenly on Friday, citing gastro-enteritis, the team might have taken another step of the final podium to boot.

The team might possibly race in Europe later in the season but that the squad’s priority was success in the UCI America Tour rankings. “I think we’ve got invitations to some races in Spain but the main objective is the America Tour,” Díaz said.

Return to form

Díaz’s previous triumph in San Luis came in 2013, when he raced under the banner of local team San Luis Somos Todos and held off Tejay van Garderen (BMC) to claim the win. Twelve months ago, however, he delivered an off-colour showing in the race, and he crossed the border to sign with Funvic for the current campaign.

The upturn has been striking. At Funvic, Díaz’s racing programme has been markedly lighter than in previous years and he spent the build-up to the Tour de San Luis on a 17-day training camp at altitude. “I’m less worn out than I was this time last year and instead of racing a lot, I’ve been able to prepare very specifically by training at altitude,” Díaz said after his first stage win at Mirador de Potrero.

Díaz is coached by his brother, weighs 1.5kg less than he did a year ago and he confided to Argentina-based website on Saturday night that his power-to-weight ratio is now approaching some 6.5W/kg, although he stressed that it was a rough estimate. In the same interview, he credited the remarkable climbing displays of his Funvic teammates to the team’s location in the mountainous hinterland of Campos do Jordão, near São Paolo.

Still only 25 years of age, Díaz had a brief spell in Europe at the turn of the decade, initially as a stagiaire with Footon-Servetto in 2010 and then as a neo-professional with La Pomme Marseille the following year. Adapting to life on the French team proved difficult for Díaz, however, and after a season in which his best results were a brace of fourth place finishes at Paris-Troyes and Paris-Mantes-en-Yvelines, he returned home in 2012 to race for San Luis Somos Todos.

“I turned professional in Marseille with La Pomme and I learned a lot there,” Díaz said during the week. “I picked up a lot of experience and it’s something that’s helped me a lot in my career since.”

Since returning to race on the America Tour, Díaz has amassed some notable results, particularly in the Tour de San Luis, where the presence of WorldTour riders and teams makes it, in theory at least, an ideal shop window for those looking to make it to the show. Díaz received no offers from European teams after his win two years ago, however, and the manager of one visiting squad on this year’s race told Cyclingnews that he did not envisage that situation changing.

Indeed, since the inception of the Tour de San Luis in 2007, none of the winners who rode for South American-based teams – inaugural winner Jorge Giacinti, Alfredo Lucero in 2010, Marco Arriagada in 2011 and Díaz himself in 2013 – succeeded in earning a place on an upper-tier squad afterwards.

“It’s certainly a dream I’ve never given up on but right now I’ll just keep following my goals and continue,” Díaz said.

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