In Barcelona: Another breakaway, another top-10
Dan Martin: “A great week of racing for the team.”
Chris Froome: “It was wonderful to see the team pull together.”
“My form improved as the days went by, which gives me confidence going forward.”
Israeli Omer Goldstein, heading to an altitude camp and the Tour of the Alps with Chris Froome: “It was fun to compete with the best in Catalunya.”
Barcelona. March 28th.
For Israel Start-Up Nation, the last week in Catalunya was, more than anything, a testament to a team on the up, a team that is showing it can consistently reach the level of a legitimate WorldTour team.
“Look what we have proved here,” said Dan Martin seconds after getting to the bus, drained after spending the whole day in the breakaway. “We were fighting for the win, day in and day out, in one of the hardest stage races in the world, and we were so close to winning two stages here. It shows you where ISN is headed: we are going to improve a lot in the next few weeks!”
The last stage in the charming Barcelona (coming back to life after the gloom of corona, with the crowds coming out under the blue spring sky) was no exception. Our preferred plan was to go to the finish with Mike Woods, his punchy power so ideal for the seven rounds on the steep Montjuic. But an XXXL breakaway was in the cards this time, and our Irishman Dan Martin was able to jump in when Woods – a GC threat – was forced to stay back with the peloton.
It was still a perfect scenario for us, but when Martin hit the first lap on the Montjuic, he knew it was not his day. “I did not have great legs and struggled with the breathing,” he said, still affected by his few weeks of ill health that precede the race. He continued as hard as he could but had no chance following Thomas De Gendt (the winner) and Matej Mohrij, who came second.
Mike Woods, our top man here, who enjoyed such a great week, still tried to attack in the last lap and “steal” a few seconds on the GC. And guess what? He was able to, and finished 6th (his third top-10!) and move to 11th overall. “ I dug really deep,” he said. “But INEOS did not let me go.” Still, he was satisfied: “Happy with the results and the progress.”
The same goes for the ISN Team Boss here, our head of directors, Rik Verbrugghe: “We showed our level every day, but the most important thing is the fantastic teamwork. That will benefit us all the season-long.”
That goes for everyone. From young Israeli Omer Goldstein (Rik: “He impressed us all”) to the great Chris Froome, who worked for the team unselfishly when that was needed.
Rik Verbrugghe: “Chris is moving ahead step-by-step. No giant leaps expected here, just keeping it going forward.” Rik revealed that Chris (along with Omer Goldstein) will be heading to an altitude camp before racing in the Tour of the Alps.
We asked Chris to sum up the week:
Chris: “Although it was a tough week for me personally, I felt my form improving as the days went by, which gives me confidence going forward.
“From a team perspective, it was wonderful to see everyone pull together. Although we are a relatively new group, we are quickly developing a great sense of camaraderie.
“I’d also like to say a special thank you to the fans out on the road who supported me from start to finish; it was incredibly motivating.
“After a few recovery days, I will be heading off to my second team training camp of the year and will return to racing at the Tour of the Alps.”