Ventura (California, USA), .- The young Spanish cyclist Ivan Garcia, 23, gave this Thursday the big surprise in the fourteenth edition of the Tour of California to win the fifth stage after prevailing in the sprint to the great favorites and get your first road win as a professional.
After years of frustration after falling short of the win, at the end García, of the Bahrain-Mérida team, achieved the great dream after winning the sprint to the Argentinean Max Richeze (Deceuninck-Quick Step) with a time of 4 hours, 56 minutes and 11 seconds
While the third place went to another Latin American cyclist, the Colombian Sergio Higuita, of the EF Education First team, who also entered the finish line with the same time as Garcia.
Garcia’s victory came after a 219.5-kilometer mountainous stage along the central California coast, which was the longest of the 2019 edition.
The trip included five climbs, including twice by Foxen Canyon Road, then San Marcos Pass, and two ascents of Casitas Pass Road.
Rohan Dennis, leader of Bahrain-Mérida, said the team decided to work for Garcia early because the promotions had to leave behind some of the best sprinters and that gave the Spanish cyclist opportunity, as it happened.
Garcia’s most recent victory came in 2017 in the Milan round of the Red Hook Criterium, the global series of fixed gear criteria that was recently suspended.
The Gijón cyclist won that race aboard a fixed track bike. Without brakes.
“Of course, this victory is much better, but Red Hook’s victory was more special and exciting,” Garcia said at the end of the stage. “Because after ñRed Hookí I went to party and celebrated, and tomorrow we have another difficult stage,” he joked.
The victory of Garcia, a classic runner who climbs well and can also compete in the sprint, came after two years of being close to getting it.
The Asturian cyclist was second this year in a stage of the Paris-Nice, and also achieved the same position in another of the Ruta del Sol, with a third place in a sprint of the Vuelta a España 2018.
Garcia admitted that he often starts his career too early, and then in the final stretch he is overcome before he can cross the finish line.
“I get very nervous, I want to run and I lose so many stages because of that,” said García. “Today I focused on trying to start my race as late as possible, I saw Richeze go 200 meters ahead and I thought it was my chance, I put on his wheel and, 100 meters away, it’s when I attack.”
Although Garcia suffered a puncture 50 kilometers from the finish, he recovered very well and in the end all the effort he made had the compensation of the first great victory as a professional, after demonstrating that it can adapt to any type of pavement and circumstances.
“I think the best thing is to be a runner like my compatriot Juan Antonio Flecha, he’s one of my reference cyclists,” said Garcia. “Making the classics and the rest of the season to be in the big races is my dream”.
While the American Tejay van Garderen, EF Education First team, remained at the head of the overall standings with four seconds ahead of the Danish Kasper Asgreen, and six over the Italian Gianni Moscon, who is in third place.
Higuita was the one who benefited the most from the stage by climbing to sixth place in the overall standings at 28 seconds from the American leader, who is his teammate.
His teammate and compatriot Rigoberto Urán was placed in tenth place, 36 seconds behind van Garderen.
The American cyclist, a great favorite to win the most important race of the season in his country, said he was ready for the final battle to be fought this Friday when the queen stage finishes at Mt.Baldy Road.
“Mt. Baldy arrives after two other important ascents and is 100 kilometers less than what we did today,” said Van Garderen. “I expect a really intense day from start to finish, many runners will want to be in the breakaway, but once you get to the end of the Baldy, if you want to be successful you must have given everything in the race.”
The stage, 127.5 kilometers away, will run from Ontario to Mt.Baldy Road, in the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains, which line the north to Los Angeles. (EFE)