By Monika Prell
Gorka Verdugo is having his best season since he turned pro in 2004. The Euskaltel Euskadi rider just finished seventh in the general classification of Paris-Nice. On the team's website, www.fundacioneuskadi.com, he affirmed to be "very satisfied. Before the start of the race, I was conscious of my good form." Verdugo clarified that "In the Vuelta a Valencia I was in front and during the training before Paris Nice I felt very well. I knew that I would reach great form at this race, but being amongst the ten best riders in a race from the category of Paris Nice is something that makes you proud."
He reflected about the best moments of the race. "The first day we had a lot of wind and the peloton was split into many parts. They had to shorten the stage, but it was still very hard. I felt good; I always was in the first group. And during the last day I also felt very strong. The crash I suffered in the second stage no longer impeded me so much, the temperature was agreeable and I was able to give my best and to obtain the seventh rank in the general classification."
The 29 year-old explained that after having crashed during the second stage, he believed that he "had to go home. I suffered a lot to finish the stage; I felt a big pain in the right calf that was very swollen. During the third stage, I also suffered, but I was conscious that I had to sustain it like it was."
The stage that ended at the Mont Ventoux, he had a clear briefing from the technical director, Igor González de Galdeano, who told him "to stand the first efforts until reaching my limit, then to keep my rhythm and to try to minimise the time loss. When I began to suffer, Igor Antón appeared at my side and helped me a lot during the last kilometres of the ascent, so I lost the least time possible."
Verdugo admitted that the great beginning of the season changed his mentality. "Every year, I was a bit better than before. To finish seventh in a race like Paris-Nice, you have to be very strong. I mainly won confidence; I think that I can continue improving. I am 29 years old and I even think that I still have potential." The plans for now are to "relax and then to go about the second part of my season," anticipated the Basque rider.