With one week to go at the Vuelta a España, former U23 road race world champion Peter Velits holds fourth on general classification in what is perhaps the best performance of his career thus far. At the top of the Lagos de Covadonga on Sunday, Peter was overjoyed by the performance of his twin brother Martin who was part of the breakaway and finished third behind Carlos Barredo and Nico Sijmens in stage 15.
"Those two guys were just stronger on the climb, so I can only be happy with my result," said Martin Velits, the current Slovakian time trial champion. "Last year, I took part in a breakaway at the Vuelta, too, but I only finished sixth, so I'm improving."
The HTC-Columbia team had several aims when they came to Spain. "We came here for winning stages with Mark Cavendish but also to prepare the for future and build up riders like Peter Velits and Tejay Van Garderen as GC riders," said directeur sportif Tristan Hoffman.
Despite the loss of Bernhard Eisel and Hayden Roulston, two experienced and powerful drivers for the HTC-Columbia lead-out train, the American outfit has reached its first goal with two stage wins by the Mark Cavendish, who also leads the points classification, but the second goal is looking very good too.
"I've managed to stay with the best climbers: Nibali and Rodriguez," said a tired but delighted Peter Velits at the Lagos de Covadonga. "I moved up again on GC [to fourth], it's great! It couldn't be a better Vuelta for me so far.
"To profit from Igor Anton's crash and other injured riders like Bruseghin is not the way I wanted to move up on GC, but I guess this is cycling. I've missed the Tour de France because of a crash as well this year."
After the Vuelta, the Velits brothers will head to Australia for the world championships where they intend to ride in support of their country's rising star Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo), who finished second to Robert Gesink (Rabobank) at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on Sunday. Slovakia only has three cyclists in the ProTour, the Velits twins and Sagan, but they all perform really well.
"Peter is an incredible rider," Velits told Cyclingnews in Spain. "He's so young but already so able to set goals for himself and be competitive when he wants to. He has announced that he's got big ambitions for the world championships. We get on very well and we'll be united at the Worlds."
In November the Velits brothers will make their annual visit to South Africa, their home-away-from-home, where they started their pro career with the Continental team Konica-Minolta in 2006.