Maximiliano Richeze (Etixx-QuickStep) came to the Tour of San Luis to work for others but he found himself in the spotlight after taking the first leader’s jersey of the race. Richeze was the first to cross the line as Etixx-QuickStep set a blistering pace in the race’s opening team time trial, giving the home crowd something to cheer about.
Richeze joined the Belgian Etixx-QuickStep team this winter after spending the majority of his time racing with Italian squads. The victory is Richeze’s first since the he claimed two stages of the 2.2-ranked Tour de Hokkaido in 2012.
“I have to say thank you to them for letting me cross the line first so that I can wear the leader’s jersey in my own country,” said Richeze. “I’m really happy to take this victory. I have been training really hard and this is my first race for the team here but I think that I am going well.”
Etixx-QuickStep was one of the final teams to roll down the start ramp in El Duranzo. Tinkoff-Saxo had set the benchmark time but the Belgian outfit were on fire, smashing their intermediate split by 12 seconds, a gap that had increased to 37 seconds by the finish line.
“Today we showed that we are in really good condition,” said Richeze. “It was a really difficult stage, it was very complicated especially for the European teams as it is the first race of the season, so it is always difficult doing a team time trial. It was also really hot but in the end we were able to do it and to take this victory.”
Richeze has been a regular feature at the Tour de San Luis, only missing it on two occasions when he was banned from racing after testing positive for stanozolo in 2008. However, it is only his second victory at the race and it is the first time that he will ride as the race leader.
“It is really nice to be racing in my own country. It has been many years since I’ve won here because I’ve always been in a team that has had other leaders. It’s nice to come back and to be wearing the leader’s jersey this time,” he said.
Richeze is a sprinter in his own right but, as his abilities wane, Etixx-QuickStep brought him in to work and a lead-out man. He came to the Tour de San Luis to work for Fernando Gaviria, who won two stages at last year’s race. Despite wearing the leader’s jersey, Richeze says that his role within the team will not change, and he will look to put Gaviria into prime position to win on Tuesday’s stage 2, which will likely hand the jersey to his Colombian teammate.
“Our roles are really clear and I am here to help Fernando,” Richeze explained. “Today was just a gift that the team gave me by letting me cross the finish line first because this is my country, but my role is to work for Fernando and to help the team. I am in really good form and tomorrow I will help Fernando.”