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Tales from the peloton, September 16, 2008

Garcia Galicia's cycling saviour?

The current economic climate in professional cycling means that a win can mean the survival of a team. Exposure for sponsors isn't always enough when it's winning that counts the most. David Garcia Dapena's brave victory in stage 15 of the Vuelta could be the tonic Galician cycling is looking for after hard times of its own.

By Bjorn Haake in Ponferrada

David Garcia Dapena (Xacobeo Galicia) celebrates
Photo ©: AFP
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Xacobeo Galicia is one of those rare gems you generally only find in the Vuelta. A Continental team with a very modest budget and riders keen to do more than just sit in the bunch all day, the Galicians enjoy lighting up the action on the road. David Garcia Dapena rode away from his rivals in the final kilometres of stage 15 to score one of the squad's biggest victories.

So precarious in its financial position, Garcia's win and Ezequiel Mosquera's high overall placing (he is fourth after stage 15) may be enough to save the team from falling apart. Garcia emphasised this in the winner's press conference, saying, "It was great that the sponsor took over mid-season [the team changed from Karpin Galicia to Xacobeo Galicia in August]. I hope they will stay with it for many years to come. This would help cycling in Galicia, which is in the process of growing tremendously."

The squad began 2007 as Karpin-Galicia, a year in which four of the nine Spanish professional cycling teams left the sport. With the withdrawal of Valery Karpin, a construction company based in the Galego region, it appeared as though the squad's riders may have to join the list of those looking for another team to ride for.

That uncertainty has been eased during this year's Vuelta. Xacobeo Galicia has had an outstanding race so far, with stages 14 and 15 the highlights. September 14 was a potentially definitive day as Ezequiel Mosquera dropped Carlos Sastre over the stage's final climb to move within 54 seconds of a podium spot.

The next day it was Garcia's turn. He set out with a plan for the general classification, which he explained after it bore fruit on his trying to make it stick. It was simple: "I wanted to be in the top 15 in Madrid," he said. Thanks to his intelligent ride and some slack from the peloton - it trickled in almost 15 minutes after the stage winner - Garcia moved from 23rd to 13th overall.

Another dream for the 28-year-old was to win a stage in a race like the Vuelta. With this now under his belt, all that's left is to win a major multi-stage event. Although that doesn't appear likely in this Vuelta, his overall victory in the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey was the fulfilment of that particular aspiration.

Strength and luck

It seems only natural that the stage is set for Garcia to launch into the next phase of his career, which promises to be bring more victories. The man from Pontevedra is feeling strong these days, getting himself in a break prior to the one which helped him to the win yesterday.

Although not given too much leeway by Caisse d'Epargne on that occasion, it provided him with the impoetus to return to the pointy end of the field the next day against the likes of Nick Nuyens, Juan Manuel Garate and David Arroyo; something that doesn't come often for a pro continental rider. "This is practically unimaginable," Garcia beamed after the stage.

Garcia knew what he had to do in order to achieve his top-15 placing and he realised the chance may not come again. Contrary to many breakaway attempts, it was intuitive, intelligent racing. "Today was a good day to be in the break," he said. "On other days the sprinters' teams will be controlling it again. Otherwise, there is only Saturday left to shuffle the general classification a bit."

The fact that on a sunny day in northern Spain the peloton was not interested in bringing the escapees back added to Garcia's determination to slip away and move into 13th overall. The combination of factors - good legs, a relaxed peloton and favourable weather conditions - made the decision for him, although it still took some hard work. "It was not easy getting into the break today, but once I was in it I knew I had a chance to win. Of course in the end you also need a little bit of luck."

With a solid advantage of 3'15 over 14th-placed Juan Manuel Garate, his fellow escapee, Garcia's lucky day may just bear fruit both personally and for the hopes of cycling in his home region when the peloton reaches Madrid on Sunday.