Almost exactly a year ago, Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) left the Volta a Catalunya hammering the handlebars in frustration after he was pipped to the line in the final stage by none other than Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). But on stage 5 this year, it was a very different story.
Part of a day-long break of 12, Pantano powered away on the final unclassified climb before Vielha alongside former IAM Cycling teammate Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates). The two worked well together, then after a hair-raising descent to the finish town, the Colombian climber distanced Laengen in the finale. Their margin over the bunch was scant, just 10 seconds, but it proved enough for the victory.
For Trek-Segafredo, Pantano's win was the seventh of this season, but their first in the WorldTour. For the Colombian, who had near misses in the 2017 Vuelta a España's stage to Gijon, his victory ended a drought that has lasted since the Colombian's national time trial title 13 months ago.
"Today was a day where I thought the break could stick and the team did a really good job and we were attentive, getting two riders in there, [Laurent] Didier and me," recounted Pantano. "Laurent did a great job, working hard for me on the climbs, and I think if I won today, it was thanks to that effort of his."
In the end, there was no sprint between himself and Laengen, because as Pantano explained, "I had no idea that the descent was such a complicated one. I managed to get a bit of a gap of him, and then I said to myself, 'if he gets past me, well that's that.' I had to take that risk and gamble a bit, and it paid off.
"It was a good breakaway, most of us were working well together. Then we went up the last climb pretty fast, and Laengen was a good teammate of mine in IAM Cycling. I told him, better the two of us get away and the chance of a win is much higher." Pantano doesn't rule out, either, another crack at a win on Sunday's stage, "where I've finished second, third, and fourth in the three previous years and I hope this time I can get the victory."
The Colombian repeatedly pointed skywards as he crossed the line, in a sign of sympathy and respect for teammate Markel Irizar and his family, after a relative of Irizar's was killed in a mountain accident on Thursday. And he had nothing but praise for the Basque racer afterwards.
"Today, I was thinking a lot about my friend and my teammate and his family during the stage," Pantano said. "He's become like a father to me in this team and I love sharing a room with him at races because he's a person who never stops being upbeat and optimistic - with the exception of yesterday."
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