Orbea rider Andoni Blázquez proved his mettle at a high level of racing by winning the climber's jersey in the recently-concluded Tour de Gironde.
The three-day, 2.2-ranked event in France ran from the 26th to the 28th of May, and saw Orbea line up with the following sextet: Andoni Blázquez, Jon Aberasturi, Aritz Etxebarria, Xabier Zabalo, Aritz Bagües and Mikel Bizkarra. Having amassed plenty of points on the first and last stage, the 24-year-old Blázquez, who was sidelined for large parts of last campaign due to injuries, just edged Drapac's Australian Adam Phelan and Rabobank Continental's Daan Olivier to the purple jersey. It was a landmark achievement for the native of Astigarraga, Gipuzkoa.
"It was incredible for me", Blázquez told Iban Mayo Blog. "Not only pulling on the jersey, but also to feel I was finally contesting a race again. It's been a while."
"The team set out with the idea of winning a stage, but as the stages passed by we came to realize we lacked that little something to achieve that. When I claimed the jersey, all of my team-mates worked a 100 percent for me and protected me. That gave me a lot of confidence".
Rabobank's Nicky van der Lijke of Rabobank's ever-potent satellite team took out the overall ahead of team-mate Daan Olivier and GSC Blagnac's Fabien Fraissignes. Xabier Zabalo ended up as the team's highest placed rider on GC with 27th, while Aritz Bagües was one place further back. As a team, Orbea ended up 12th. Sprinter Aberasturi mixed it up with a seventh and a 14th on stage two and three respectively, while Zabalo came in 11th on day one.
Final general classification:
- (1, Nicky van der Lijke (Rabobank Continental), 12:16:04)
- 27, Xabier Zabalo, 1:13
- 28, Aritz Bagües, s.t.
- 37, Aritz Etxebarria, 1:24
- 78, Jon Aberasturi, 8:11
- 86, Mikel Bizkarra, 11:02
- 88, Andoni Blázquez, 11:19
Photo: Alban Cordoba and Hervé Bidou