Juanjo Cobo’s overall victory saved what’s been a difficult season for upstart Geox-TMC.
The team missed out in a ProTeam license after the arrival of deep-pocketed sponsor Geox, an Italian shoemaker, and did not race the Tour de France despite the presence of big-name riders like Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre.
Cobo’s surprise victory will give the team something to celebrate as it looks ahead to next season.
“This victory brings a great satisfaction after all the sacrifices and suffering we’ve been through,” said Geox-TMC sport director Joxean Fernández. “We’ve always believed that this block of riders could compete against the best in the peloton.”
Coming into the Vuelta, Geox-TMC had only won three races all season.
Matteo Pelucchi won the Clasica de Almeria back in February and Fabio Duarte took the flowers in stage 3 at the Giro del Trentino. Fabio Felline also won a stage at the Brixia Tour.
The team has posted 27 second- and third-places, but six of those came during this Vuelta and another four came from outside Europe.
Menchov came close to wins with third overall at the Vuelta a Murcia, but fell flat at the Giro and Vuelta, where he finished eighth and fifth overall, respectively.
Sastre mustered third at the Tour of Austria in July, but was not a GC factor with 30th in the Giro and 20th at the Vuelta.
Cobo’s big win comes as a pleasant surprise for Geox-TMC. Though he was strong at the Tour of Burgos in August, many expected Sastre and Menchov to carry the team’s GC hopes into Madrid.
Cobo nearly quit the sport earlier this year after he was depressed over poor results.
“I’ve suffered from depression for 18 months. The best therapy for me was to come to the Vuelta with no pressure and try and do my best,” Cobo said. “I took the red jersey at the top of the Angliru and I enjoyed being in the lead even though I was stressed, of course.”
Cobo’s Vuelta win could secure his future and the team’s. Geox was rumored to be considering dropping its cycling sponsorship and dedicating that money to Formula 1. According to reports in the Italian media, the team’s big Vuelta performance is giving the squad some breathing room with its title sponsor.
The challenge now for Geox-TMC will be to try to secure a ProTeam license for next season. That would guarantee the team a place in the Tour, as well as its sponsorship future.