The days of the Virgin of August arrive in the countryside of Castilla. On the riverbank they cut poplars that darn and buzz like whips on the backs of steers, and in the plaza clean sand is thrown over the blood of the wounded bullfighter, the dulzaina sounds, and Íscar’s jota is danced at wild parties. You can barely hear in the background the bell for the funeral of Solita, who died alone from eating poisonous mushrooms, and they bury her alone. That’s where we all come from and when the Vuelta a España passes they all go to the gutters wanting to applaud those who have managed to flee and seek solitude with their bikes attacking when the mountain arrives.
In Villarcayo they see the fugitive pass, and cheer, the brave whom they suppose without hope, because the great ones always calculate, accelerate, catch and win. But the platoon takes a long time to arrive, and they see it as they see it, and they conclude that those who run without hope are them, those of the strongest platoon, and they prefer to return to the game, to the battered shrimp, which is a party, or, in the shade of an acacia tree, to a novel by Miguel Delibes, who traveled around neighboring lands by bicycle to visit his girlfriend in Molledo, Cantabria. Cyclists do not deserve much more, it seems to them, nor do their current directors, who, they think, are more concerned with managing the steering wheel of the car well, even if some do the praise in a curve, than managing the strategy and tactics of their runners, guide them to victory, or fight for it. And some are told that the director-conductors tell their runners in these times that they have to play dead, that they have to get others to work, that they have to be taken advantage of.
He misses Movistar’s fondness for the blues in his head, the great Spanish team, the one that always takes responsibility in the Vuelta, its great national showcase. And the escape passes with nine minutes through his door and the Movistar, who win very few times and it seems that they do not need to win, nor do they exist, the dead are so well done. There is no longing for solitude, for freedom, for heroism, in its leaders. They don’t show it. They only exist, and the fans regret it, when one of the escapees, the veteran Estonian Rein Taaramäe, has already won the stage, deservedly enough, and one kilometer from the top of Picón Blanco, the port that the favorites have climbed to the tran – which allows the magnificent Óscar Cabedo to do what he has always dreamed of: attacking in the last kilometers of a great port a group with people as good as Primoz Roglic, Landa, Valverde, Yates, Bernal … and picking up Carapaz with his acceleration- – Alejandro Valverde accelerates to launch the sprint for the fifth place of his teammates Enric Mas and Superman López. They all launch at 300m and Mas prevails, and takes 3s to Superman, Roglic, Yates, Landa, Bernal …
And that was it.
If a roller coaster resembles the lives of interesting people, endless joys and cries, meteoric rises, explosive descents, a Kazakh coaster should be reserved to describe lives and adventures whose only story takes away the hiccups, or to count the 16 The lives of the Astana team, which, having just started the Vuelta, expelled its Canadian financial partners, before the end of a year of their relationship, and reinstated the eternal Alexander Vinokúrov just eight weeks after firing him. The good relations of the best Kazakh athlete in history with the power circle of the Supreme Leader of Kazakhstan, Nursultán Nazarbayev, have more value than any commercial treaty or complaint when managing his most representative sports team. In between, a good part of its best cyclists – Vlasov, Luis León, Izagirre … – has opened in disarray.
The stormy life that the team has led, which maintains the old name of the country’s capital, without adopting Nursultán, the city’s new name, was already promised with its stormy birth in June 2006, a few days after Liberty Seguros abandon Manolo Saiz, detained in Operation Puerto. And Vinokúrov has always been there, the only fixed point in the ups and downs.
Vinokúrov, the figure of that Liberty in which the young Alberto Contador began. With Herminio Díaz Zabala as director, Vinokúrov won the Vuelta that year. In 2007, the management of the team was assumed by the Swiss manager Marc Biver, who appointed the Italian Adriano Baffi as director. They make their debut in the Tour from which they are expelled two weeks after the positive for blood transfusion of Vinokuv and his compatriot Andrey Kasheckin. The team changes managers. Johan Bruyneel, who has lost Discovery despite having won the Tour with Contador, takes him in 2008, but cannot run the Tour because the Astana brand is banned. Without a Tour, Contador is illustrated by winning Giro y Vuelta and, in 2009, he wins his second Tour ahead of his teammate Lance Armstrong, who has returned three years after retiring. Once his sanction has been fulfilled, Vinokúrov returns to Astana, which, once again, changes the management team. Bruyneel and Armstrong leave ship, founding RadioShack, and Frenchman Yvon Sanquer takes over in 2010, with Italian director Giuseppe Martinelli, leading Contador to a victory on the Tour from which he will be dispossessed. After proclaiming himself Olympic champion in 2012, at the age of 39, Vinokúrov hangs up his bicycle, stops pretending and directly assumes total control of the team, which, always led by Martinelli since then, wins Tour and Giro with Nibali, launches and brakes Mikel Landa, wins the Vuelta with Fabio Aru, throws Superman López and Pello Bilbao, and gives Alex Aranburu the best chance in a line-up that, in this 2021, has seven Spaniards.
The life of cycling in the last 15 years has risen and fell parallel to the Kazakh mountain of Astana, a history that is also circular, like the stages of Taaramäe, who in 2015 was racing for Vinokúrov at the time, and with his light blue jersey he won, precisely, the Vuelta a Burgos, the province in which the Intermarché rider has achieved 10 years after his first victory in the Vuelta, the climb to the Farrapona, and a provisional red jersey accompanies it.
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