The 32-year-old proved he still has the speed to be among the protagonists on a flat finish.
Etixx – Quick-Step enjoyed an excellent start to this year's Tour de San Luis, storming to the win in the stage 1 team time trial and propelling Maximiliano Richeze in the leader's jersey, for the first time in his career. One day later, in Villa Mercedes, the Argentinean did a fine work to launch Fernando Gaviria to his maiden pro victory (and the third in the South American event). Unfortunately, the team's luck changed in the second half of the race, in a moment when Gaviria was hunting his second stage success, while Rodrigo Contreras was third in the standings and was also leading the U23 classification. Both were involved in the stage 5 crash that occurred with 30 kilometers to go and the injuries they sustained meant the end of their spell in San Luis.
Following that incident, the team took it easy on the second and last mountain stage, before coming again at the forefront on the final day of the event (San Luis – San Luis, 119.6 kilometers). On Sunday, January 24th, the sprinters' teams were in control all the time and reeled in the break of Emmanuel Guevara (San Luis Somos Todos), Juan I.Curuchet (Argentina National Team), Robin Carpenter (Holowesko-Citadel), Mauricio Muller (San Juan) and Elias Tello (Chile National Team), before setting up the trains for the finish.
The last 300 meters of stage 7 witnessed a duel between two cyclists of the Italian National Team, Elia Viviani and Jakub Mareczko, with the victory going to the latter, but only after the jury watched the photo-finish. Dayer Quintana (Movistar) won the general classification with a 20-second gap over Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), while Nairo Quintana rounded out the podium.
Also Etixx – Quick-Step was among the protagonists in the finale, bringing Maximiliano Richeze in a good position, which allowed the 32-year-old to sprint to 5th in the stage, a result that left him satisfied: "Tour de San Luis was my first race of season, and I couldn't have asked for more on a personal note. To wear the leader's jersey was the main highlight for me, but maybe even more important was that the team clicked right from the beginning and knew how to react regardless of the situation. It's a pity Fernando and Rodrigo had to abandon, but I'm sure they will return stronger from this, and with a huge motivation to prove themselves."
Photo: ©Tim De Waele