The Vuelta a España 2020 marked the final Grand Tour of the unique, delayed World Tour race season where Israel Start-Up Nation rounded things off on an absolute high.
Team leader, Dan Martin proved from the start, he was back to his A game, stealing several early stage podium’s, before taking top step on Stage 3, concluding a thrilling uphill sprint battle to the line aboard his OSTRO VAM.
The team went on to fight ferociously in support of Dan and his fight for the General Classification podium. They travelled through some of Spain’s most picturesque, yet testing terrain, battling over iconic, brutally steep ascents – L’Angliru included. To add, they suffered through grim autumn conditions, but unfailingly rocked up to the start line daily as men on a mission, up for the fight.
Come the closing stage into Madrid, they walked away with their heads held high, with another World Tour victory achieved and a hard fought 4th overall.
Here, we take a look inside the Vuelta with the team; from the thrilling moments of glory and success to the many times spent suffering up epic Spanish mountain passes.
Photography by Noa Arnon and Bettini Photo
The race for red hit the road running following a stunning 169.5km route from Irùn along the Basque Country’s Northern Coastline, via San Sebastian, before hitting the hills at 70km in. Four categorised climbs then followed, presenting a nice opportunity to test the climbing legs and start the race off with an explosive bang.
The finish in Arrate-Eibar lay soon after the final ascent, seeing only a select group arrive to the line to fight it out for the first Maillot rojo honours.
Israel Start-Up Nation’s, Dan Martin proved he was back to his best, sprinting in to claim an impressive 3rd place on the stage, making his GC intentions very clear as he went.
Another testing day on the pedals was had at the Vuelta’s Stage 2 with three categorised climbs included, and the race’s first category 1 in the mix, the San Miguel de Aralar. The testing climb was the final challenge of the day, with a swift 17km descent to follow to the finish in Lekunberri and another trip to the podium for Dan Martin, 3rd on the stage and up to 2nd in the General Classification.
Stage 3 at the Vuelta was yet another day for the OSTRO VAM and the O2 VAM to dance, as the road was consistently pointing up for every 163km pedal stroke endured. The stage got underway from the Navarretown of Lodosa, and included a stinging second category climb throughout, before tackling a long final drag up to the line in La Laguna Negra de Vinuesa, offering a beautiful, scenic backdrop for us viewers, but a hearty dose of suffering for the peloton.
Come the final excruciatingly tense moments, Dan Martin persevered through the pain, pouncing at the perfect time and laying down a punishing pace as he went that simply couldn’t be matched, crossing the line as the best man on the stage. What a win!
Stage 4 was finally a day full of flatland, allowing the fast men their first real opportunity to shine.
The 190km stage from Garray. Numancia to Ejea de los Caballeros saw Israel Start-Up Nation’s Mihkel Räimgo go head-to-head for stage honours on his Factor ONE, storming in to an impressive 8th on the stage.
STAGE 5 & 6
Stage 5 and 6 was all mountain madness, an untimely, yet fortunate fall at the finish for Dan Martin, stunning scenery and a day of survival in brutal conditions…the first rest day of the race couldn’t come sooner.
Bikes in check. No rest for some on the Vuelta’s first rest day.
STAGE 7 & 8
Following a day for the breakaway on Stage 7 with some incredible backdrops, Israel-Start Up Nation had their eyes on the prize once more on Stage 8’s mountainous route, kicking off from Logroño.
The first big hurdle came on the slopes of the second category, Puerto de la Rasa, followed by a mostly downhill stretch through to the vineyard-dotted surrounds of the famous La Rioja region. The finish then came up the demanding 14.5km Alto Moncalvillo, dishing out some painfully steep pinches along its course.
Dan Martin once again rose to the test, fighting it out to finish 3rd on the stage, leaving it all out on the road as he went.
Stage 9 at the Vuelta was a breath of fresh air for the all, offering a welcomed 163km flat run from Castrillo del Val to Aguilar de Campoo. Another prime occasion for Israel Start-Up Nation to dust off their ONE’s, and set up 21 year old, Alexis Renard to contest the furious dash to the line, where he ended the day an impressive 6th place.
STAGE 10 & 11
Stage 10 offered a mostly flat run along the Asturian coastline, resulting in a solid 7th on the stage in a tight up-hill final sprint for Dan Martin.
The battle for red fired up a notch the following day as the peloton faced the most gruelling stage of the race yet, over a highly mountainous 170km route from Villaviciosa to Alto de la Farrapona.
The stage almost certainly had every rider suffering like mad as a succession of five challenging categorised climbs were endured throughout its course.
An opportunity for Israel Start-Up Nation to grit their teeth and put their bikes to the test as they battled it out superbly through to the finish that lay up the tantalisingly tough 20km long Alto de la Farrapona.
Another 7th place, following a gutsy effort up the mountain for Dan Martin aboard his OSTRO VAM.
Stage 12 presented another demanding mountain stage with a dramatic finish up the infamous Angliru.
The short, far from sweet 109km stage travelled over some incredibly scenic road, into the heart of the Asturias where eventually the 12.5km final battle lay. Averaging 6% for the first 6km, it was a classic case of calm before the storm, as from there the road really began to ramp up, reaching sections of up to 23.5% and the fireworks set off.
Another top effort by Dan Martin who fought hard to finish with the best, ending the day with another promising 7th.
Bike TLC and leg turning on rest day 2.
Following a hard earned rest day yesterday, Israel Start-Up Nation had their Factor SLiCK’s and OSTRO’s raring to go – game on for the Vuelta’s first and only race against the clock.
The 33.5km time trial from Muros to Mirador de Ézaro Dumbría was mostly flat with the exception of a final 2km uphill slog to the line, where most riders opted for a swift bike change onto the climbing machine the O2 VAM.
A quick day out for Dan Martin who impressed with a solid performance to come in as 13th best on the day, maintaining his position up the pointy end of the GC standings.
STAGE 14 & 15
Stage 14 departed from the northwestern city of Lugo in Galicia, travelling along a lumpy route down to the beautiful, history-rich city of Ourense, up a short, punchy climb to the line. Although a day for the breakaway, Dan Martin came home strong to finish 8th on the day, the best of the rest.
The following stage was a huge day on the pedals, venturing 235km from Mos to Puebla De Sanabria. A mountainous stage in challenging conditions proved a day of survival for most.
STAGE 16 & 17
Following a fairly straightforward Stage 16 sprint day, the GC battles were back on for the penultimate stage, dishing out a cruel selection of daring categorised climbs along its 175.8km route that finished atop the Alto de la Covatilla.
As expected, the race was on from the gun as the fight for final standings spectacularly continued to fire through the mountains, leaving little room for respite throughout the relentless stage, ensuring a real day of suffering.
The final 125km stage into Madrid was a mix of celebration, followed by a fierce, fast final phase for stage honours.
Congratulations to the entire team who continued to impress throughout with their determination, resilience and drive to collectively perform to the best of their abilities at professional cycling’s highest level.
We were honoured to support you in your efforts, and now more than anything can’t wait to see what great things the 2021 race season will bring.
VIDEO: Israel Start-Up Nation at the Vuelta
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