The Vuelta a España press corps lost all objectivity when Ezequiel Mosquera attacked up the Bola del Mundo in a last-gasp bid to win the Spanish grand tour. Venga, Ezequiel! Ataca!
The veteran “gallego” is a popular figure in and out of the peloton and the 34-year-old proved Saturday that patience pays off. After years of slogging in the trenches in obscure Portuguese and minor Spanish teams, Mosquera stepped boldly into the spotlight during the 65th Vuelta.
He came within 41 seconds of toppling the mighty Liquigas team and its budding star, Vincenzo Nibali, but in the process, scored the stage victory and podium spot that’s eluded him these past few years of nibbling at the edge of Vuelta greatness.
“This means a lot for me. Until today, I was always fighting for places of honor. When you get close, it makes you fight harder or sometimes you think it may never arrive,” Mosquera said. “To come close to winning the Vuelta is the biggest thing for a Spanish rider. I am very, very satisfied.”
Mosquera — son of a lumber mill operator in Spain’s northwest Galicia region — gave the Spanish fans something to cheer about Saturday. He attacked hard on the 20 percent ramps of the Bola del Mundo and looked to have Nibali on the ropes, but the Italian fought back and the pair crossed the line together, with Mosquera gliding across just ahead of his Italian adversary.
“I gave everything I could. I couldn’t give anything else. Maybe I needed one more gear. I am satisfied because I won the stage that had been escaping me so far in the Vuelta,” he explained. “And to finish on the podium behind Nibali is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Mosquera’s future is up in the air, just like the fate of his Xacobeo Galicia team. The squad is backed by support from local and regional governments, which are strapped as Spain struggles through the worst economy in Europe.
Mosquera is entertaining offers from several top European teams and might take the money while he can. He says he believes he has a few more good years left.
“Every year you get older the more you have to train and struggle even more. This year, I really didn’t get into shape that I wanted until late into the spring. OK, I am old so I have to keep fighting,” he said. “The last part of this season has been the best of my career. Maybe I regret losing a few seconds on stages like Xorret or Jaén.
“You cannot live with regrets. You have just to keep fighting and look for opportunities.”