It’s party time for the cyclists from the province of Biscaia. On the day that the Euskaltel-Euskadi team intelligently defended the lead of Igor Anton against the twin threats of Olympic mountain biking silver medallist Jean-Christophe Péraud ,who was virtual leader for part of the stage, and Joaquin “Purito” Rodriguez, who tried to gain a second at the very end, David Lopez (Caisse d'Epargne) found glory with the stage win in Alcoy. It’s the first time that the 29-year-old from Bilbao has tasted victory at the Vuelta a Espana.
Lopez Garcia is normally a domestique although he did win a stage of the Tour of Germany at the Austrian ski resort of Sölden in 2007. That was his first year with Caisse d’Epargne after transferring from Euskaltel where he learnt his trade.
“The emotion this win generates is indescribable,” the Basque rider said after the finish. “I didn’t imagine that it could be so intense. In the final kilometres, I was scared of riders as strong as Roman Kreuziger and Giampaolo Caruso. I picked the right time to go solo and I’ve suffered a lot to maintain my advantage until the finishing line but it was worth it. In the last kilometre I realized I couldn’t lose.”
This is the first win of the Vuelta for a Caisse d’Epargne team that lined up at the race without defending champion Alejandro Valverde, who is currently banned, but with five riders supposed to share the captaincy: David Arroyo, Marzio Bruseghin, Rubén Plaza, Luis Leon Sanchez and Rigoberto Uran. “The crash that involved many riders on stage 8 has taken its toll,” said directeur sportif Yvon Ledanois. “Probably our best rider for GC is now Marzio Bruseghin after Arroyo and Sanchez’s crash.”
Plaza is convinced that he has better form here at the Vuelta than at the Tour de France, where he finished 12th overall. He’s hoping for a top five finish in Madrid. But whichever Caisse d’Epargne rider is in the best position in the mountain stages, he’ll find a loyal domestique in the person of Lopez, whose outlook will not be changed one bit by his fantastic stage win in Alcoy.
“There’s more serenity in the team since we know that we have a new sponsor (Movistar) for next year,” said Lopez. “We have unfinished business at the Vuelta and we're hoping for more success in the next two weeks. Anything can still happen.”