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Vuelta a Espana

An extraordinary first Vuelta

This Sunday, in Santiago de Compostela, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux concluded its incredible crossing of Spain by a 33.8 kilometer individual time trial. This effort against the clock enabled Odd Christian Eiking to secure his 11th place in the general classification and put an end to the team’s unforgettable first participation to the Tour of Spain.

Thanks to Rein Taaramäe on the top of the Picón Blanco, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux took a stage win on the third day and on the same occasion, the leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour for the first time in its history. Thanks to the 34 year old Estonian rider, the jersey was in the hands of the team for two days.

At the end of a “miraculous” breakaway in the tenth stage, Odd Christian Eiking renewed the fairytale by reconquering the jersey in Rincón de la Victoria. Eiking was in the form of his life and thanks to the support of his teammates, the Norwegian rider wore the red jersey for an entire week.

This 76th edition of the Vuelta also had bad luck in store  for the team, with crashes involving Taaramäe and Eiking when they were leading the classification, but also Louis Meintjes. The South African rider was forced to abandon at two days of the end, when he was in 10th position in the classification.

The 11th place of Odd Christian Eiking is the best final result in a Grand Tour ever in the team’s history. Sprinter Riccardo Minali, who finished his first Vuelta, just like Wesley Kreder and Kévin van Melsen, sprinted four times to a top 10. Despite a crash in the penultimate stage, also Simone Petilli finished the Vuelta for the first time. Experienced riders Jan Hirt and Rein Taaramäe concluded a Grand Tour for the eighth and tenth time in their careers respectively. Together, the riders under the sportive direction of Valerio Piva and Jean-Marc Rossignon became 5th in the team classification.

On the individual and collective level, it was an extraordinary Tour of Spain. We delivered performances like never before during those three weeks. Speaking about myself, at the start in Burgos I was determined to show something nice, but never I would have imagined wearing the red jersey for seven days and finish 11th in the general classification. I was living a dream. The last days, I battled to finish in the top 10. That would probably have been possible without the crash when I lost the jersey. But I don't have regrets, because the last couple of days fatigue was getting the best of me. So the Vuelta ends at the right moment. Now, I'm going to turn my focus to the end of the season classics in which I want to take advantage of my good form!

We came here with the ambition of winning a stage and finishing in the top 10 of the general classification. We wanted to show our qualities on the highest level in the third Grand Tour of the season. What we achieved is nothing short of amazing! The stage victory came already on the third day, in the very first uphill finish. And what about those stages with the race leader among us. This new responsibility made us grow as a team. The 11th place of Odd Christian Eiking is unexpected, it is a fantastic result even though it is just outside the top 10. But I can't help thinking about Louis Meintjes, who was about to add a beautiful headline to our achievements. This is an extra reason to come back next year with renewed motivation and ambitions. Despite numerous setbacks, we managed to bounce back and react. We can be proud of our first Vuelta. 



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