Carlos Betancur (Movistar) claimed his first win in over two years with victory on stage 1 of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon.
The Colombian has battled with weight, form and fitness in recent years, but the 26-year-old, who is riding in Movistar colours this season, battled through to take a significant win after his barren spell. Betancur’s last victory came in April 2014, when he won the overall in Paris-Nice.
He finished 20th in last year’s Giro d’Italia but had his 2016 contract with former team, AG2R La Mondiale, torn up last summer.
His win on Friday came after a two-up sprint against Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA).
“I'm really happy to win again after so long. Cold, rainy conditions suit me well - Alejandro and many teammates and rivals struggled quite a bit during the race and I had to profit from that. Into the final 25km, the break still had two minutes, so I decided to come to the front and help my team-mates out since we were into a bit of disadvantage against Caja Rural - we had led the bunch during the whole stage,” he said.
"I'm of course excited about what's to come after this success, but the roles within the team are clear and they won't change. This victory is a tribute to Franco Gini, a man who helped me a lot to get on the right path agin, making me reflect on the keys to success and how to do things well. Now, I've got a strong squad supporting me, Movistar Team, which has relied on me - this is a reward to them, for believing in what I could do."
Movistar came into the race aiming to back their veteran leader Alejandro Valverde. According to Betancur – who leads the race after his stage win – the plan will not be altered.
“I didn't come here to chase the GC, and our leader is Alejandro. We'll see how these two stages will go, but Bala is in excellent condition - we remain committed to him.
“When you've got a big rider as Alejandro by your side, you must help him. Several attacks went before Bilbao's; that's when I decided to go after him. Despite him taking some meters into the descent, I could bridge back for the sprint... and that's how I got the win.”