They call the Tour of Andalusia the “Ruta del Sol” or ?road to the sun? in the race manual. Well, maybe. Just not this year.
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) are the only two Tour de France favourites who?ve opted for Andalusia this year. Weather-wise, perhaps this wasn?t a great throw of the dice.
Stage one started in a muddy field somewhere above Marbella. The rain teemed down as the riders squelched across to the start-line just outside the picturesque village of Benahavis. (Well, picturesque in August, maybe. Just don?t got there in mid-February: even the local donkeys are plodding around in wetsuits.)
Stage two started on a windswept, abandoned seafront just east of Malaga, once again in a downpour. As for Tuesday?s stage three, that started on the outskirts of Otura, a grimy dormitory village on the grimy outskirts of Granada. No prizes for guessing what the weather was like.
Barriers blew over in the howling wind. Squalls of rain kept the riders shivering in their buses. Not even the excellent food on offer at the sign-on could tempt them out.
The view was hardly the best either: miles and miles of bleak, empty housing estate and building sights, with a sprinkling of enormous cranes. Most of the public were workmen and women, keen for a chance to doss off for a few minutes. The rest of the fans stayed home.
But despite the Belgian weather (in Brussels the sun is shining right now), Evans was in an excellent mood. Small wonder: on Tuesday afternoon at La Zubia, Evans taken his first road win in years – and in his first race of the season. He signed one autograph to a young girl in a Cheltenham CC top, one of two fans outside the Silence-Lotto bus, then discussed the implications of hitting the bullseye from the get-go.
CW: Were you expecting this victory so early in the year?
CE: Well, it was an interesting situation [in the stage]. It split early, then I went across a bit later and had three team-mates there so it put us in a really good position to go for the win. So yeah, it was good, very good.
CE: A bit. But I?m pleased for the team because they worked hard and it was good to be able to deliver what you need in the end.
CW: Good for the morale to win so early, too, I imagine.
CE: Not bad. But it?s July which matters for me. These wins are good now but they get forgotten pretty quickly once the big races come around.
CW: They probably noticed this over in California…
CE: Oh yeah? Dammit. Now they?re going to be watching me at Paris-Nice…
Within Silence-Lotto post their first victory of the season the mood is definitely upbeat. ?Cadel?s team-mates have seen he can win and win early.? directeur sportif Herman Frison told Cycling. ?That?s always important.?
?Cadel was nervous here. It?s his first race of the season. But I told him time and again in the stage over the radio that he could be calm, we had nothing to lose. This is the Tour of Andalusia, after all. At the same time, I told him we should try for the win.?
?With [team-mate] Dario [Cioni], Cadel asked me. I said no, he should go for it in person. And he won.?
Photo gallery: Ruta del Sol, stage two