Carlos Verona is one of the new faces of cycling. The 21-year-old Spaniard riding in his second year for Omega Pharma-Quick Step, remains in contention against mountain biker Jack Haig of UniSA-Australia for the best young rider title ahead of the decisive stage of the Santos Tour Down Under up to Willunga Hill. He showed a piece of his talent as he took the white jersey on day 1.
“The Tour Down Under has been good for me so far,” he told Cyclingnews in Adelaide. “But sometimes your body doesn’t react as well as you want. When I see how Simon Gerrans and Cadel Evans perform, it reminds me that I have to progress step by step into my career. I hope to reach their level one day but I’m not there yet.”
Hailing from the steep slopes of San Lorenzo del Escorial overlooking Madrid, a town where Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez won a spectacular stage 8 in the 2011 Vuelta a España, Verona was born a climber. At the age of 18, soon after exiting the junior ranks, he finished third of the queen stage of the Tour des Pays de Savoie in the Alps behind Romain Bardet and Nikita Novikov. He was already a professional with Burgos-BH.
"That’s when Omega Pharma - Quick Step, via their soigneur Johan Molly, asked me to join them for a training camp," he explained. “I started working with them and signed my contract in 2012.”
“So far, my best result is eighth of the Japan Cup”, he added. “I’m following a planned progression. We’ll see where it takes me but I already know that I prefer the long races. The Vuelta a España is definitely my favorite.”
Verona doesn’t hide the fact that his idol is Purito. “When I moved to Barcelona to be close to my girlfriend and find better weather conditions than in Madrid, I’ve trained a fair bit with him but not much since he moved to Andorra," the Spaniard said. “I really appreciate him as a person. For anything in cycling, he’s my model. I like his sportsmanship. When he lost the 2012 Vuelta a España to Alberto Contador, he only made positive comments.”
Spanish cycling is in need of fresh blood as Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez are much closer to the end of their career than the beginning. Not many champions look to be next in line. “Benat Intxausti might be the next big one,” Verona commented. “But maybe it’s time for other nations to lead cycling rankings. We won’t always have the best riders in the world. Spain doesn’t have many continental teams, so it’s not easy for young riders to step up a level from the junior ranks. As for myself, it’s too early to tell. It’s difficult to become a star but I work hard and enjoy my job every day.”