Despite having spent eight years as a professional rider and been recognized as Tour de France 2007 most combative cyclist, Amets Txurruka hadn’t won a race until last weekend, when he took the second stage of the Vuelta a Asturias. It was a success which didn’t came alone as the next day he took the overall classification in the Spanish two-days race.
The Basque cyclist won on Saturday with an attack in the last kilometers which allowed him to stay clear and win in Pola de Lena. It was the culmination of a whole day of offensive riding by his team, Spanish Professional Continental outfit Caja Rural.
The following and final day was a summit finish at historical Alto del Naranco. There, Txurruka stayed calm, trusting the work of his teammates to control the early attacks from Mikel Landa (Euskaltel) and Rubén Plaza (Movistar). On the final climb, the attacks of Javi Moreno (Movistar Team) were neutralized by Txurruka’s teammate Andre Cardoso, who was on his wheel every time he went hard,
Txurruka praised Caja Rural as the key for his results.
“We rode perfectly. Our team was strong enough as to have at least one man in the head of the race during the whole competition. That allowed us who were not attacking to just sit in the bunch and expect Movistar and Euskaltel to try and bring back the control of the competition. Also, we were the most represented team in the crucial moments, since we had three guys who could win here.”
Txurruka was refering to himself, Andre Cardoso and Marcos García. “And having a majority over Movistar or Euskaltel in those moments of the race, definitely, rocks.”
Winning Vuelta a Asturias is a highlight for Txurruka’s season, which has started well, with a ninth place in Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, fifth in Vuelta a Madrid and the victory of Mountains Classification of Vuelta al País Vasco. And, although he isn’t used to ending races in such good positions in previous seasons, the Basque rider doesn’t feel he is in the best shape of his career.
“I think I’ve been better in other moments”, he said. “Only at those I was making others win races, not succeeding personally.”
Igor Galdeano wasn’t right
Txurruka arrived at Caja Rural this winter after being released by Euskaltel-Euskadi, where he had spent six years in a row and even rode the three Grand Tours in 2012, always as a domestique to team leaders. The decision brought severe controversy to the team environment, especially when combined with Euskaltel breaking its traditional policy of only signing Basque-born or Basque-nurtured riders in order to hire foreign cyclists as they hunted for points to stay in the WorldTour.
At that time, team manager Igor González de Galdeano said that he thought Txurruka needed “a change of scenery” to perform at his best. Despite having enhanced his resuts this season, the rider from Etxebarria still thinks it wasn’t right to let him go. “I am doing the same work I did in the past years with Euskaltel, only I’m getting better results because of different circumstances. In Caja Rural I have a different, leadership role. And I’m more confident, mature… And even luckier than before.”
Nonetheless the bitter experience of not being renewed by a ProTeam and the sweetness of victory, Txurruka feels his place is in a higher level. “I’m not a winner. I’m consistent, but I’m not the kind of guy who can deliver victories regularly. Even if I’m great at Caja Rural and love to ride in the ‘green team’ with its familiar and offensive approach, I think I fit better in a support role, working for a leader in a bigger squad.”