Don’t expect to find Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) moping during the off-season about his lost chance to win this year’s Vuelta a España with a bad-luck crash going into the final week. Instead, the Basque climber is taking heart from lessons learned, which he hopes will help carry him to future success.
Speaking to the Spanish daily El Correo, Antón revealed his resilience and says he takes optimism out of the 2010 Spanish tour.
“A lot of people have asked me how I am after having lost the chance to win the Vuelta,” he told El Correo. “I have also asked myself that question and the answer is, happy. There are more Vueltas. I am satisfied with what I did (two stages and five days in leader’s jersey). I am a fighter and I won’t give up, but I am also happy with how things are.”
Antón knows what it’s like to lose chances due to crashes. In the 2008 Vuelta, he hit the deck on the descent off the Cordal, on the road to Angliru, when he was a likely contender for the stage, not for victory against Alberto Contador.
This year, he crashed out under much different circumstances. He was the leader, with two stage victories and all the confidence behind him. Everyone looked to Antón as the likely winner, but he went down hard, hitting a pothole or maybe clipping a wheel as the peloton roared at nearly 60kph to the base of the short, but steep climb.
In an instant, he was on the ground with a ripped and bloodied jersey and a broken elbow, watching the Vuelta ride away.
Antón insists despite the disappointment he’s satisfied because of what he says he learned during the race.
“During the race I knew to control the pressure, I learned how to calm myself down, to tell myself that everything was under control, that I was strong, that I hadn’t had a bad day,” he continued. “I still haven’t won a grand tour and it’s true that I left with the sensation that perhaps the chance to win had escaped me.”
Antón has had a bumpy ride since turning pro in 2005. He won a mountaintop stage at Alto de Calar in the 2006 Vuelta, announcing his arrival to the elite. Then in 2008, he crashed out of the Vuelta, followed by a disappointing 2009 season that saw his mother fall ill and struggle with personal problems. He was back at his best in 2010, in what he called his “best season ever.”
“After all I’ve been through in my personal life, I don’t let the setbacks in sport get to me,” he said. “Everyone around me put more importance on the crash than I did. Setbacks are part of sport. Injuries are something else. I was injured, yes, but luckily not too badly and I have many years ahead of me.”
“I still have more chances to win the Vuelta. I can still improve and now I know that my chances to win a Vuelta have improved,” he continued. “To be the leader demands more. You notice that you have more enemies in the peloton, more wolves. I am assuming this role.”
For the future, Antón looks to the Ardennes classics, to the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.
For 2011, erasing the bad memories of Cabarga and applying the lessons learned will be the priority, with the Vuelta as the season’s top goal.