Alessandro de Marchi (BMC Racing) said that he felt liberated after taking his first individual victory in three years on stage 11 of the Vuelta a Espana. The Italian has been a regular part of BMC's successful team time trial line-ups, but it is the first time since his 2015 Vuelta stage win on Fuente del Chivo that he has lifted his arms to claim solo success.
"It was a liberation because I have waited a lot for this moment and the last three years I have been up and down a lot, and finally I have found myself again," De Marchi said after the finish.
The opening kilometres of stage 11 was expected to be a bun-fight with the breakaway standing a very clear chance of taking it to the line. So it was to pass, with relentless attacking for almost 100 kilometres before a clear breakaway was formed. De Marchi was there with teammates Dylan Teuns and Nicolas Roche, and both proved key in the victory.
Even with the escape group created, the attacking rarely stopped. De Marchi latched onto a late move by Roche and Katusha-Alpecin rider Jhonatan Restrepo with 25km to go before eventually dropping them. While Roche fell back into the chasing group, Restrepo pulled the gap back and De Marchi knew he had to drop his companion if he hoped to turn his efforts into victory.
"If it went to a sprint, I would for sure have finished second. The only option was to try everything on the last climb. Honestly, I didn't feel the best legs but it was just mind," explained De Marchi. "The presence of the other two guys was important, it was the key. I could play in the front and then I was sure that they would help me by stopping the bunch behind. In the end, the whole day was full gas and each move looked like the right one so you cannot lose one moment. I was fighting for five and a half hours. It was the hardest win that I've ever had."
De Marchi had told Cyclingnews before the stage that he thought his best chance had gone when he had failed to make on Sunday's stage to Covatilla. Having missed that opportunity, he was keen to hit the ground running in the second week and plans to continue scouting out more breakaway opportunities until the race reaches Madrid in just under two weeks.
"The plan before coming into the Vuelta was to try and do an easy first week and in the end it was. I think we will see every day what is going on," he told Cyclingnews. "Until now, it has been quite crazy and difficult to understand. Sometimes you're waiting for the breakaway and it didn't arrive, and in the end, they let them go and now maybe it is the opposite. From now until Madrid, I will be there and seeing what will happen."
Wednesday's stage victory is the third in four appearances for De Marchi at the Vuelta a Espana, all from long-range breakaways. His first came during his race debut in 2014 when racing in the colours of Cannondale, winning by a healthy margin of 1:34 over his break companions. A year later, he was at it again with a win on a mist-draped Fuente del Chivo. Though he was in the breakaway almost every day, last year's edition proved to be the only one so far without a win for De Marchi.
"I don't know really," he said why his best performances came at the Spanish Grand Tour. "I think it is the moment of the year particularly. I'm always good in the last part of the season and I usually plan the season really well. Maybe the type of racing also suits me. This is why I like it and I have two stages in the past."