2016 Best Moments: De La Cruz’s perfect day at the Vuelta a España
Etixx – Quick-Step had another successful season in 2016, with 56 road wins alongside 69 other podium places. Over the next weeks we will look back on the 10 biggest moments for the team, with David De La Cruz's superb stage win at his home race being one of the highlights.
Can anything top taking your first pro victory at a Grand Tour? For David De La Cruz the answer is yes, there is: taking your maiden pro win and the leader's jersey at a Grand Tour, a moment made even more special by the fact that it all happened in Spain, in the third and final Grand Tour of the year.
Stage 9 of the Vuelta a España saw the peloton move into the Asturias for an uphill finish on Alto del Naranco, a second-category climb located just outside Oviedo. 12 riders booked a place in the early escape, and Etixx – Quick-Step's David De La Cruz – 15th in the overall standings, less than three minutes behind the leader – was among these men who opened a 5-minute advantage over the bunch.
On Alto de la Manzaneda, several riders tried to put some daylight between them and their opponents, but it wasn't until the closing meters of the small ascent that a duo broke clear and forged an advantage – David and Dries Devenyns – who went away and quickly built a considerable margin over their former breakaway companions before tackling the last climb of the day, Alto del Naranco (5.7 kilometers, 6.1% average gradient), which David knew very well since riding it in the 2012 Vuelta a Asturias.
The two continued to share work at the front until the final kilometer, when David put in a strong and decisive attack, which allowed him to open a margin on Devenyns and propelled him to a resounding success. As soon as he crossed the line, all eyes turned to the clock to see if the peloton will lose enough time so that David takes the red jersey. Several riders accelerated from the pack with two kilometers to go, but despite their efforts, there was another leader at the end of the day, 27-year-old David De La Cruz, who became the fourth different Etixx – Quick-Step rider to top the general classification of a Grand Tour in 2016.
"After being injured and sidelined due to health problems many times in the past two years, this victory repaid me for all the hard work and the team for the confidence showed. I want to thank everyone for their support and for believing in me, the victory wouldn't have been possible without the huge support I received every single time", said David De La Cruz during the Denia training camp when questioned about that moment.
"It was incredible to ride in a race against the best in the world – riders like Froome, Contador, Valverde or Quintana – and take that beautiful win. Alto del Naranco is a fantastic climb, which I know very well from the Vuelta a Asturias, and to be on top there gave me a great and unique feeling. At the beginning of the day, when I jumped into the escape, I was thinking of fighting for victory, but on the final climb I got the time gaps from the team car and this gave me confidence and motivated me to push hard in order to land also the red jersey. To don it on the podium was the cherry on the cake", concluded David, the only Spaniard to win a stage or to wear the leader's jersey at the 2016 Vuelta.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele