Sergio Higuita. Dani Martínez. Mitch Docker. Lawson Craddock. Logan Owen.
EF Education First Pro Cycling’s five finishers rode to every challenge the 74th Vuelta a España threw their way. During the first week of the Vuelta, Hugh Carthy, Rigoberto Urán and Tejay van Garderen were forced to abandon the race due to crashes, necessitating a complete change in plans.
Our five remaining riders remained steady through the chaos, maintained a positive outlook despite the bad luck, and, in the end, proved that they were not merely content to make it to Madrid but eager to embrace the role of animators as the race unfolded across Spain, Andorra, and France.
EF Education First Pro Cycling CEO Jonathan Vaughters said character is shaped, built, revealed in our most challenging moments. During this Vuelta, our riders and staff showed us that they are champions. Hear a bit from each below on this Vuelta’s defining characteristics and special moments.
Juanma Garate (sport director)
The crashes, of course, were the hardest moments. Anytime you lose riders, when you see that they are badly hurt, it’s hard. The stage where Rigo, Hugh, and Tejay crashed on stage six, it was our lowest moment. Rigo is still in the hospital even now, two weeks later.
We were able to turn our Vuelta around because the riders woke up the morning after the crashes and said: ‘Okay, we are going to go for it. We are going to fight until the end.” The sun came up again. We couldn’t forget what had happened, but we all knew we had to continue. Which they did. And that kept the morale of the team really high.
In the end, they won a stage. We all felt a lot lighter after that.
I haven’t really had a chance to understand what has happened. I know it’s very important to win a stage in a big tour like the Vuelta, but my mind had to stay on racing – so I won the stage, and then tomorrow it was another stage, and I focused on that and then the next stage and the next. Racing the Vuelta, finishing a Grand Tour, winning a stage, it’s all special. This has been my dream since I was a child.
There were a lot of bumps in the road during my first Grand Tour, and it was a big deal to me to finish in the end. I learned that you can get sick, you can crash and you can still recover – all while racing. That was cool to understand. I’ve seen that unfold on TV, and I wondered how guys managed to recover during a race, and I figured that out for myself during the Vuelta. It’s about having the will to continue.
(road captain) Mitch Docker
Coming up on that last straightaway on the last circuit lap in Madrid, seeing 500, 400, 300 meters to go, feeling like it was really over. It was emotional. The team had a great Vuelta but a hard Vuelta. This race reminded us all that suffering makes success so much sweeter.
I tried to take something from the breakaway here on the last stage because it’s important to fight until the end. Around the course, there were a lot of people from Colombia, from Spain, from many countries all over the world, and, of course, our co-workers from EF Education First. I wanted to show the team colors, show the team spirit, take one final chance.
I suffered too much during this Vuelta. I felt good during the first week. During week two, the pain was difficult. And the last week? Ufff. It was hard for me. I dropped easily. Always we work to get stronger. For me, it was important … because I have races in Italy and the world championships coming up, and I want to be in good shape for those race because they’re important to the team.
There’s a lot of joy at the moment to finish it off with the guys we have here. We would have loved to have had Rigo, Hugh, and Tejay here, but we’re pretty excited with the way we forged on when they were forced to exit the race. What we accomplished is definitely worth a bit of celebration.
Ken Vanmarcke (sport director)
We had way too much bad luck. What was the most impressive to me was that the riders and the staff, they kept going, held their heads high. Everyone made a real effort to do that. We were trying really hard, but at a certain time, it became harder to keep doing that because we were never rewarded…until we had the magnificent day when Sergio won. In the end, this was a really memorable and really special Vuelta.