Boiling Tokyo. Japan. Thursday, August 5. 22.15. Half an hour ago Jorge Ureña, from Onil, Alicante, has finished the 1,500m test, the tenth of a decathlon that leaves its participants exhausted, lying on the track, gasping for calm for their hearts, fighting against nausea and thirsty for oxygen molecules in moisture-laden air. After two days running, jumping, throwing, doing a full motto citius, altius, fortius (faster, taller, stronger), the decathlete achieves the best mark of his life (8,322 points, the third ever in Spain, after Francisco Benete and Antonio Peñalver), but finishes ninth (and in a few Games he has only been best Peñalver, silver in Barcelona 92), 91 points only from the eighth. And if he had been eighth, he would have won the finalist diploma, and more scholarship to continue being an athlete.
Jorge Ureña had reasons —tired, ninth… – not to go talkative but complaining through the mixed zone of the press, but as soon as he sees the journalist, laughing openly, happy, he doesn’t even allow himself to ask. He is the curious one. “You will go to the Vuelta, right?”, He asks. “I really want it to start. I am very of the landismo, you know? Yesterday I could not see the stage of the Vuelta a Burgos, but today I don’t miss it… I will go through the stage of the Balcón de Alicante… ”. It is a hurricane that flies towards the Olympic Village to connect to the Picón Blanco stage and tifar by Mikel Landa from Alava, who is third, close to the winner, Romain Bardet, but ends up winning the general.
And like Ureña, who relives and forgets his bad accounts, so is Spain, waiting for Landismo, that cycling philosophy that privileges a certain naivety, a clear sentimentality, a taste for class mountain attack, aesthetic, without being disappointed, without losing her composure, her hands lowered, her waist immobile, and her torso, and her legs as if moving in slow motion, and a lament — almost always, but not always — for what could have been and bad luck did not stop being. He arrives at the Vuelta Landa as the one desired by a hobby that also appreciates the drops of class, and the eagerness, of Alejandro Valverde, so much willingness to continue winning even at 41 years of age, and the pride and consistency of Enric Mas, of whom he wants one more drop of the adventurous spirit, the risk of the attack, which three years ago led him to finish second in the Vuelta.
And so is the Vuelta, which begins this Saturday with a prologue from the cathedral of Burgos. Riders will set out from its gothic interior, with stone walls so thick that perhaps they will keep out the heat wave, and the Lucifer that carries it from Africa to the dry plateau wrapped in a sand cloud of the Sahara. Later, by a ramp that saves the stairs of the porch, and a hideous strip of asphalt and tar that litters the old stone slabs of the ground, the barbarians will go out to the civilization of now.
They all wish Landa, who promised happiness and dreams fulfilled in the last Giro, but fell early and left the way free for Egan Bernal, and only returned two and a half months later, in the Clásica de San Sebastián, and later, in the Vuelta a Burgos, a race that he loves because in it he revealed himself to the world 10 years ago, and won it, as Jorge Ureña was able to enjoy and see. And everyone wishes that Landa could with the strongest of the last years in the three-week races, Giro, Tour and Vuelta a España.
And almost everyone will be in the Vuelta. Between Primoz Roglic (two Laps, 19 and 20), Egan (one Giro, 21, and one Tour, 19), Tadej Pogacar (two Tours, 20 and 21) and Richard Carapaz (one Giro, 19), they have won seven of the eight great disputed in the last three years (the eighth, the Giro del 20, was won by the Englishman Tao Geoghegan, who has not confirmed his talent in the 21st).
Pogacar, who, before eating two Tours, presented himself to the world finishing second in the 19 Vuelta, at age 20, exhausted after running the Games (he was third) after finishing the Tour exhausted, he will not be in the Vuelta. Yes, the others will be there, and two of them, Roglic and Carapaz, arrive directly from Tokyo with a gold medal around their necks.
Eager for victory in his fetish test comes Roglic, ill-fated in a Tour that ended soon, defeated by crashes in the third stage, the murderer of Brittany, and bandaged as a mummy. That he recovered his form quickly, no one doubts it after seeing how the reborn Tom Dumoulin won the Olympic time trial at the Fuji circuit, who spoke of the Slovenian as one fallen from another planet. That the route of the Vuelta, hard, mountainous and buckled with a 30-kilometer time trial in Santiago on September 5, is not going bad at all, it is also a universal truth, seeing how he has dominated all the terrain in the last Vuelta.
The adaptation to the heat of Roglic, man of the cold, is unknown, and that problem is underlined by the second great favorite, the Colombian Egan Bernal, who arrives from Fusagasugá, the city of the high plateau of Cundinoboyacense and its salt cathedral in which so much cold the adolescent Gabriel García Márquez passed. Bernal promises that his great dream now, every year, each step, one more ambitious, is to complete the cycle of the big three, but he hides, first alleges his weaknesses – little training, doubts about his fitness, effects of the covid that happened after the Giro, little competition … – that their strengths. And, as if it were an order from the bosses, so does Carapaz, his partner at Ineos.
The Ecuadorian, third in the Tour de France, second in the last Vuelta, where he made Roglic sweat, remembers, without further ado, that he has already run three Laps and has never won a stage, that that is his goal in 2021 that he arrives tired of the Tokyo Games.
To all of them, Landa tells them: “I have to be careful because I have just broken my collarbone and four ribs, but since 2015 my goal is to be on the podium again. I was one second on the Tour and a few seconds on the Giro. Sometimes luck has not been with me, but I think it is possible ”.
And the fans are hopeful. Landismo dreams.
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