Gino Mäder started the Vuelta a España expectating to work hard to secure the best result possible for his Bahrain Victorious leaders but he ended the three intense weeks of racing with a top five overall and the jersey of the best young rider on his back.
An impressive result, made all the more so by the huge volume of work he did on the way to help teammate Jack Haig make it onto the GC podium of a Grand Tour for the very first time at the Vuelta, while stepping up to the plate as the team’s best prospect after Mikel Landa slipped down the rankings.
“Wow, it’s unbelievable for me, and the whole thing just fell into my hands yesterday,” said Mäder after the final stage of the Vuelta.
“I was already happy before with my provisional 8th in GC and being amongst the best climbers in this race.
“Now I’m sitting here in the white jersey having helped Jack on the podium and I’m a little bit lost for words.”
The 24-year-old Swiss rider finished 31st in the time trial, 3:19 behind stage and race winner Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and a minute-and-a-half behind Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), who was the next best rider on the overall and youth classification heading into the stage.
Still, the substantial gap he had carved out on stage 20 – where he finished within 30 seconds of the stage winner Clement Champoussin (AG2R Citroen) while Bernal shed near seven minutes – was more than enough to see him hold firmly onto the fifth place overall and the white jersey of the youth classification.
“In the end it’s a fifth place, and there are a lot of really strong riders,” said Mäder. “It’s unexpected and maybe a bit too good, and I take it and I hope it’s not my last time in the top 5 in the GC.”
Mäder delivered his first WorldTour victory earlier this year at the Giro d’Italia, winning stage 6, and then added another on stage 8 of the Tour de Suisse. This was his third Grand Tour and second Vuelta. He made a strong start to his Grand Tour participations in the Vuelta last year, with 20th place overall but, injured, abandoned the Giro d’Italia on stage 12 this year.
After the shift up the results board on the climbs of the Vuelta this year – culminating with the move from eighth to fifth overall on stage 20 and youth classification lead – Mäder has clearly stepped up as a rider to watch at future Grand Tours.
”We did some really amazing things here. We came here for Mikel after his success at Burgos, but unfortunately had some difficulty. We reacted fast and reset the roles in the team and the guys all did the maximum from the first to the last stage,” Gorazd Štangelj head sports director at Bahrain Victorious said.
“I’m really happy for Gino to get this confirmation of his ability and for his future, he can be a GC rider.”
The high place finish also had an added benefit, as at the start of the Vuelta Mäder announced on social media that for every rider he beat on each stage he would add one Euro to his charity fundraising effort. The total quickly grew as it turned out that, over the stages, he beat a lot of riders.
“Stage 21: 111 riders beaten. Vuelta done. It was hard.” Mäder said on Twitter. “New total: 3159.”
“Twitter, 10 for everyone in GC?“
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