HTC-Columbia reached some important milestones during the Vuelta a España, which concluded Sunday in Madrid with Peter Velits on the podium in third place overall and Mark Cavendish securing his first points jersey in a major three-week tour.
Velits was one of the big surprises during the Spanish tour, riding with consistency over a very demanding course before winning the time trial stage in Peñafiel ahead of Denis Menchov and Fabian Cancellara. Velits hung on during the explosive Bola del Mundo summit to become Slovakia’s first grand-tour podium finisher and the first for HTC-Columbia to reach a grand-tour podium since Bob Stapleton took over the team in 2006.
“I came into this race feeling good but I never expected to do as well as this,” Velits said in a team release. “It’s funny, but breaking my collarbone this spring ended up being beneficial. I had to rest up over the summer and do some good training for the autumn. In my first Tour de France, one day I was good and the next day I was bad, but here I was consistent and that was what got me onto the podium here. It’s also a very special feeling being HTC-Columbia’s first rider to do so.”
Cavendish, meanwhile, won three stages en route to securing his first points jersey in a grand tour. After coming up short in the past two Tours de France despite winning 11 stages, Cavendish fought through a broken spoke in the final 4km of Sunday’s finale to finish second to Tyler Farrar and claim a spot on the final podium.
“I didn’t expect it when I came here, but I really am pleased that I managed to achieve it,” Cavendish said. “It’s my first green jersey in a major tour and that’s something very special. The Vuelta is different from other races because there are equal points on offer in the mountains and in the flats, but at the end of the day it’s all about being consistent. I’m very happy for HTC-Columbia all round. We took five stages, led overall, and we got on the podium as well as the points. It has gone perfectly.”
Both Velits and Cavendish will race in the world championships in Melbourne in two weeks.
The Vuelta success was just part of what was a pretty impressive run by the men’s and women’s teams over the past nine days.
The team won two stages at the Vuelta a España, four stages and the overall at the Tour of Britain, plus two stages and the overall at the Giro di Toscana, and took victories at Belgium’s Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen and the GP Isbergues in France.
The team added 12 more wins to its haul, the Vuelta’s coveted green points jersey, a grand-tour podium finish, the team’s milestone 100th win of the 2010 season, and two stage-race overall victories.
“The HTC-Columbia men and women have enjoyed one of our best weeks of racing ever,” said team owner Bob Stapleton. “It comes from the talent and personal commitment of each one our athletes and staff members. This kind of continuous success is only possible through tremendous teamwork.”