Any professional’s first win is a special moment, but for Lampre-Merida's Winner Anacona to secure that victory in the Vuelta a España’s second summit finish, at Valdelinares, helped make his maiden triumph even more special.
“It’s been three years coming, but the wait for my first victory has been worth it,” Anacona told reporters afterwards. “And on top of that, now I’m back in the top 10 overall.”
Anacona’s presence in the day-long break of 31 riders added an extra element of interest to the move, given that prior to stage 9 he was lying 2:50 behind race leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and a bid for la roja was very much a possibility for the Colombian.
The provisional leader on the road for many kilometres, Anacona finally broke away on the raindrenched ascent of San Rafael, some 15 kilometres from the line, along with Trek’s Bob Jungels and Movistar’s Javi Moreno. Moreno was able to stick with the Lampre-Merida rider as far as half-way up the final ascent to Valdelinares, but at that point Anacona made his strong form - he had already finished third in the Tour of Utah - count.
Historically, it made sense for Anacona to clinch his first triumph in Spain, 45 seconds ahead of Alexsey Utsenko (Astana), a victory which has placed him fourth overall, just nine seconds down on leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Anacona was first inspired to follow cycling when, as a seven-year-old, he saw Spain’s Abraham Olano and Miguel Indurain take their respective gold medals in the Bogota World Championships in 1995. And his first big result came in the 2012 Vuelta, when he placed 19th overall in his first year as a full pro.
However, on Christmas Eve 2012, disaster struck. A dog ran out into the road whilst he was training, causing Anacona to fall, and he fractured his ankle. The recovery time stretched out to nearly ten months, making his second Vuelta participation last September much less successful than he would have liked, finishing 105th.
Fast forward another 12 months, and the Vuelta 2014 has proved to be a very different story for Anacona, who spent the first part of the press conference explaining the origins of his first name. It turns out his father is a big fan of cycling and he wanted to name his child Winnen after Dutch 1980s pro and Tour podium finisher Peter Winnen. But a registry office spelling error in his Colombian hometown - switching the ‘n’ for an ‘r’ saw Anacona Junior named Winner instead.
Anacona did not think, however, he would have the chance to raise his arms in victory on Sunday when he made it into the break.
“I didn’t think it would get very far because I was so close behind overall, but in fact it got up to eight minutes 20 at one point. I was thinking about the lead, of course, but given the choice the stage is more important.”
“I knew that the Movistar rider [Moreno] would want the stage too, so I attacked to be sure I could get to the finish alone.”
Once Lampre-Merida leader Chris Horner had abandoned, his initial objective in the race, he said, “was a top 10 place overall, but I lost 30 seconds in [stage 3 to] Arcos de La Frontera and another minute in yesterday’s [stage 8] echelons.
“Now I’m back in the top 10, I hope I will be able to stay there.”
His success will also, of course, do his negotiations for a new contract in 2015 no harm whatsoever. When asked if he will re-sign for Lampre-Merida, he responded, “All options are open for now.” But interest from other teams is sure to be a lot higher after stage 9 of the 2014 Vuelta.
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