Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has reached his goal of winning a stage of the Giro d’Italia. Prior to tackling the mountains, he had told Cyclingnews that any stage was welcome. After struggling a bit on the Etna and the Grossglockner, he found his best form in time for the hardest part of the three-week race, the Monte Zoncolan.
“This is a mythical climb that I had only seen on TV previously with the wins of some of the greatest riders like Gilberto Simoni and Ivan Basso,” Anton explained. “It was a risk to attack on that climb. This is absolutely the hardest climb for a bike race. At 5km to go, I suffered a lot and what I was doing at the front was a bit of a gamble. But I wasn’t racing against my rivals, it was a race with myself. I was trying to calculate the distance and the gap, but I managed to stay focused.”
The Basque rider was reminded of some moments from the Tour de France when he entered the last two kilometres where the crowd had gathered. “People live the event as much as they can,” Anton acknowledged. “They were so close to me on that narrow corridor that I couldn’t hear anything. It was a calvary. The last few metres seemed to last an eternity.”
“This is the most important win of my career,” Anton continued. It’s also his second comeback at the highest level of cycling after a bad injury. “I’ve got a few pieces of metal in my body,” he laughed. “Fortunately I’ve been treated well by the doctors. After my crash in 2008, I had doubts that I’d be able to come back. In 2009, I hadn’t muscularly recovered yet but 2010 was a good year for me.”
But then Anton crashed again on stage 14 of the Vuelta a España, on the way to Peña Cabarga while wearing the red jersey of race leader. He broke a collarbone and said goodbye to the race in a very gentlemanly way, without making people cry.
“I think I was able to win the Vuelta,” he said at the Zoncolan. “I could have lost time in the final time trial. We’ll never know, but with the mountains that were remaining after my crash, I definitely had a good chance to reach Madrid with the red jersey.”
Anton approached the 2011 season without the Tour de France on his race calendar but the Giro d’Italia was added to his program as Euskaltel was obliged to do it under the new regulations of the WorldTour. However, the team management didn’t put any pressure on him for GC. He’ll return to the Vuelta for the overall win but his only goal at the Giro was to win a stage. Now he has also moved up to third place.
“A podium finish in Milan, why not?” Anton said. “But I have to be realistic. I don’t believe in any possibility of winning the Giro against Contador who is racing very intelligently. Nibali and Scarponi are racing at home, with pressure, like me in Spain.”
The first time Anton took part in the Giro d’Italia in 2005, he used a rest day to go and pay tribute to his idol Marco Pantani at his grave in Cesenatico. “I’ve always wanted to climb like him, that’s why I’m delighted to win in his country today,” added Anton, who dedicated his stage win to his team Euskaltel and his girlfriend Idoia.