In December, Xavier Tondo was picked up by Cervélo as their final recruit for the 2010 season. Today, the Spaniard delivered an unexpected result in one of his first appearances with the Swiss team with a stage victory in Paris-Nice.
The win was well deserved after Tondo's gritty solo effort during the final 35 kilometres of the stage. He escaped from the 23-men breakaway which had been away since the second climb, 180km earlier.
"I knew it would be very difficult to stay in the lead but I had to give everything I had left," the Spaniard said. "As a sprinter, I'm totally hopeless. Had I stayed with Damiano Cunego, I had no chance of winning. Fortunately, a few seconds lead have been enough for me in the finale."
"It's been one month since he was talking about Paris-Nice," Cervélo's directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit explained. "At our first training camp in Tenerife in December, he said he had a dream program. We were looking at a climber able to help Carlos Sastre at the Giro d'Italia. Honestly, we didn't expect him to be at this level at Paris-Nice."
Tondo, who rode for Andalucia last year, was also considered by Astana to become a right-hand man for Alberto Contador. "I had other offers as well", said the winner of the 2008 Tour of Portugal.
"Cervélo's directeur sportif Alex Sanz Vega managed to convince me to join Carlos Sastre, who is one of my favourite riders. This is an ideal team for me because I also have the opportunity to ride for myself sometimes like today. Actually I was hoping for a good result overall."
That goal was all but lost on stage 5, when he got trapped by a split in the bunch and lost his 12th place overall. "That's how a stage win became my goal", he said.
The 31-year-old started his career in 2003 with modest outfit Paternina-Costa de Almeria and rode for secondary Spanish and Portuguese teams.
"After the results I got in 2005 (winner of the Tour of Alentejo and a stage of the Tour of Asturias), I had the opportunity to join Relax but I had a bad season ruined by glandular fever. However, every year I won a race and this is my tenth win. I've had to wait to be over 30 to join a really big team, but I'm feeling good here now."
Tondo has a reputation of being a climber but he stated he loves time trialling as well. "I've worked with Olympic champion Juan Llaneras on the velodrome of Palma de Mallorca, that's how I prepared for the prologue of Paris-Nice in which I came 6th. It was the evidence that I had trained well. It's no coincidence that I can deliver results this week", said a delighted Tondo.