Who is Imanol Erviti?

Erviti Movistar 2015 Vuelta Espana COR VOS

The Spring Classics usually throw up a surprise or two, and this season was no exception, especially at Paris-Roubaix where we saw rank outsider Mathew Hayman win from the early breakaway.

Spaniard Imanol Erviti was one of Hayman’s companions in that move, and the only other man in the break to finish in the top ten. The Movistar man’s ninth place came a week after an equally surprising seventh in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

So who exactly is Imanol Erviti, the anomaly among these top ten standings, otherwise filled with cobbled specialists?

The 32-year-old is one of a rare breed in cycling – a one-team man. Since turning professional in 2005, Erviti has stuck with Eusebio Unzue’s Abarca sports through its several different iterations. He’s not the first rider to stay with the team for such a long time, following in the footsteps of José Vicente Garcia Acosta (17 years) and Pablo Lastras (18 years).

Like those riders Erviti is a gregario, a worker, a loyal lieutenant to long-time team leader Alejandro Valverde. He has helped Valverde achieve some of his greatest victories, including the 2009 Vuelta a España and last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and was supposed to ride in his service at the Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

Instead Valverde went to an altitude training camp to prepare for the Giro. The rest is, for Erviti at least, history.

Erviti Movistar 2015 Ronde Vlaanderen COR VOS 2
Erviti on the way to a surprise seventh-place finish at De Ronde

At De Ronde he became only the second Spaniard in history to finish in the top ten, the first since Juan Antonio Flecha in 2008. That ride included over 180km in the breakaway. At Roubaix he was out front for over 200km.

Speaking to Spanish newspaper Marca after Roubaix, Erviti said, “I have raced these cobbled classics many times and have returned disgusted, so the results are a surprise. However, my physical performance doesn’t surprise me.”

This spring saw Erviti race the two cobbled Monuments for the twelfth time, and with his previous best result being a 40th place at the 2009 Paris-Roubaix, it was a surprise to everyone. Of course, experience plays a big factor at these races, something that Erviti agrees with.

“Maybe [these results could have come earlier], but I don’t know. Clearly it’s a matter of experience and learning how to manage in these races,” he says. “The method is more or less trial and error. Maybe there are teams who are experts in these races and can teach you a lot faster, but they are not like Movistar in other aspects.”

“Everyone has their way and I do not regret mine.”

Erviti Movistar Roubaix 2016 COR VOS
Sprinting to ninth behind Heinrich Haussler and Marcel Sieberg at Roubaix

So there are no regrets about this late emergence, but does Erviti forsee a future in leadership?

“It’s a step on the way and what I need to do is to keep working so that it’s not the final step,” he says. “Being a leader is nice but it’s not easy in any race, and it’s a big responsibility.”

Erviti is not a natural leader, and even if he has done well on the cobbles he’s unlikely to lead a team again until next April. It’s his willingness to work for others that is of most value to his team, and this is something that has caught the eye of others too.

One notable man who has recognised Erviti’s talents is Spanish national coach Javier Minguez. The ex-Vitalicio Seguros DS has been in charge of World Championships team selection since 2013, and has selected Erviti in 2014 and 2015. It’s no small deal when a country like Spain could easily fill a squad of stars.

“Imanol is a very good rider, and he has very specific qualities to do the hard work,” says Minguez. “These are qualities that every leader wants to have at his side.”

Minguez wasn’t surprised about Erviti’s rides over the past few weeks though.

“He’s a rider with the quality to do very well in races like De Ronde. Usually his gregario mentality limits his thoughts about showing his personal brilliance though,” he says. “He has the physical potential that allows him to do extra work on behalf of the team.”

Erviti Movistar 2015 Ronde Vlaanderen COR VOS
Erviti riding in the break at De Ronde

Minguez wouldn’t be drawn on whether these performances are likely to secure him another Worlds selection, but don’t be surprised to see him in Qatar, working for Spain’s stars once again. It’s a role that he’s comfortable with.

“I have been a gregario for a long time,” he says. “It’s what I’m good at and suits the qualities I have, so this is not something I want to change.”

After the highs of the cobbles it’s back to that supporting role for Erviti now, starting at the Amstel Gold Race before racing the other Ardennes classics. Then he hopes to ride the Tour de France, his seventeenth Grand Tour, in service of Nairo Quintana.

But first, the big question – which race is harder?

“They are both very demanding. You push your limits in both. Roubaix is hard for the enduring pain, De Ronde for the gradients,” he says. “The worst of Roubaix is undoubtedly the falls and danger, but the impact of reaching the vélodrome is the best.”



Born in Pamplona, Navarre, Erviti started out at the local Ermitagaña Cycling Club. He rode in the amateur ranks with Bideki, the ONCE feeder team previously known as Iberdrola.

The team had previously brought through Alberto Contador and Juan Manuel Garate among others, but shut down in 2002. A move to Serbitzu-Kirolgi followed and steady results, including stage wins at the Vuelta a Valladolid and Vuelta a Navarra saw him secure a contract with Pamplona-based Illes Balears for 2005.

Since then Erviti has stayed with the team, helping them top the ProTour/WorldTour rankings in 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2015. It hasn’t always been about toiling away for the leaders though. In 2008 he won stage 18 of the Vuelta a España, outsprinting breakaway companion Nicolas Roche in Valladolid. Two years later came his next (and most recent) victory, again at the Vuelta and from another breakaway.

The spring Erviti the worker has proven his talent as a sometime breakaway specialist once again.

Quintana talks illness and rider safety at País Vasco

Quintana Contador Movistar Volta Catalunya 2016 COR VOS
Quintana battling with Alberto Contador at March’s Volta a Catalunya (Cor Vos)

Ahead of his bid to add a second Vuelta al País Vasco victory to his ever-growing palmarés, Movistar’s Nairo Quintana talked to regional newspaper El Diario Vasco.

The Colombian had more on his mind than just the week’s racing though, most of all his condition. He’s in good shape, he says, but illness has interfered with preparation for the race somewhat.

“At the moment I feel under the weather,” he says. “Catalunya affected the whole team. I caught a virus which left me with chills and a dry cough. And on top of that it has been raining!”

On the eve of the race, Quintana’s team had been depleted as brothers Gorka and Ion Izagirre were ruled out of the race with gastroenteritis.

Aside from the fight to stay healthy, Quintana anticipates tough competition over the coming days. The 24-year-old singled out Sky’s Sergio Luis Henao (second last year) as well three-time winner Alberto Contador of Tinkoff, who he beat to the overall title at the Volta a Catalunya last month.

“My rivals are fit, on track – especially Contador. He looks good in terms of racing and condition,” he says. “What he does, he does well – attacks, climbs, as usual.  And Froome was pretty strong in Catalunya – he already has a high level. Come Tour-time they will be in even better form.”

Conversation inevitably turned to the race’s route, which has been widely recognised as one of the toughest-looking editions of recent years.

“It is very hard, unreasonably tough I think,” says Quintana. “The climb in the Eibar time trial is also hard, but I like the time trial – the descent is very fast and has some deceiving corners.”

“The hills are not long but they are hard. [The organisers] have to think a bit about the riders before putting together such a harsh route.”

There’s also the question of the weather – rain is forecast during the week, something that riders from Contador to Joaquim Rodríguez have already commented on. Meanwhile Quintana has a complicated relationship with wet weather.

“If the weather is bad the road grime will complicate things,” he says. “I don’t like the rain – I prefer good, clear weather. But if it does rain my allergies don’t affect me and I feel better. When I won here in 2013 it rained a lot and that actually benefitted me.”

Quintana, followed by two motos at last year’s Tirreno-Adriatico, said it’s “normal” to be afraid of them (Cor Vos)

Finally, and inevitably, came subject of moto crashes and rider safety. It’s an issue that has been hard to ignore for months now, one that has been tragically brought back to the fore with the death of Wanty-Groupe Gobert’s Antoine Demoitié at Gent-Wevelgem.

“I’m very sad about what happened to Demoitié. He was just doing his job,” said Quintana. “What happened is outrageous, but it’s not [happening] just now. Already last year there were problems at the Vuelta, Clásica San Sebastián, in the classics and at the Giro.”

Rather worryingly, Quintana went on to admit that it is normal to be afraid of motos, saying “Of course (I have been afraid)! It’s normal.”

A number of solutions have been put forward by a number of people around the cycling world, and Quintana calls for a more thorough licensing system.

“Any oversight can mean a tragedy. It cannot be that in a WorldTour race there are people who drive a car only in that race,” he says.

“Just as the directors have to get a license, everyone in the race should have a certificate to authorise them to follow a race, and not start driving directly in the WorldTour.”

Who is Andrey Amador?

Giro d'Italia 2012 stage 14
He was fourth at this year’s Giro, but who is Andrey Amador? (Cor Vos)

The revelation of the Giro in profile

If you were paying attention to the crowds lining the road in Milan today, you would’ve noticed a Costa Rican flag on the finishing straight. It’s a long way to come to show your support, but these have been a historic few weeks, with the country’s only professional riding to a surprising fourth in the General Classification.

Amador is his name, Andrey Amador Bikkazakova to be precise. It’s a strange one, thanks to his uncommon lineage. His mother, Raisa, is Russian, while father Rodolfo is of Galician heritage.

The youngest of three sons, Andrey turned to cycling in his teenage years. He followed in the footsteps of middle brother Ivan, who he would later ride with in three editions of the Vuelta a Costa Rica.

Amador started off racing both on the road and on mountain bikes, and was successful almost immediately, winning nine gold medals at the National Games. Junior National road race and time trial Championships followed, before joining Ivan at one of the top teams in the country, BCR-Pizza Hut.

He quickly overshadowed his older brother. As an eighteen-year-old he finished on the podium at the Vuelta a Costa Rica, as well as coming second in Panama’s Vuelta a Chiriquí later in the year.

With his mind set on turning professional he was advised that moving to Spain would give him the best chance of doing so, and midway through 2006 he did just that. Continental team Viña Magna-Cropu was his destination, where he linked up with future Movistar teammates Sergio Pardilla and Jose Herrada for the first time.

Amador at Lizarte in 2007 (top row, third from left) (equipolizarte.com)
Amador at Lizarte in 2007 (top row, third from left) (equipolizarte.com)

His results there, including a string of podium places at the Vuelta a Costa Rica, saw him noticed by top Spanish amateur team Lizarte. Costa Rica’s first professional, José Adrián Bonilla, helped Amador make the transition, introducing him to team boss Manolo Azcona, whom Amador would later describe as a second father.

Based in Pamplona in the Basque Country, the heartland of Spanish cycling, Lizarte have been a steady provider of cyclists to the pro ranks for twenty-three years.

Joseba Beloki is the biggest name to have raced for the team before turning pro, while other notable names include Claus Michael Møller, Isidro Nozal and Benjamín Noval. More recently Movistar riders Marc Soler, Enrique Sanz and Nairo Quintana’s brother Dayer have made the jump.

Amador won an impressive nineteen races with the team, including the Vuelta a Bidasoa and Vuelta al Goierri stage races as well as numerous classics and stage wins at the Vuelta Navarra and Vuelta al Palencia.

Amador June 2007 (equipolizarte.com)
One of many victories at Lizarte (equipolizarte.com)

His finest result as an amateur was still yet to come though, going to September’s Tour de l’Avenir as part of an international selection alongside current pros Jarlison Pantano, Mitch Docker and Jacques Janse Van Renseburg.

Having already penned a pro contract with Spanish squad Caisse d’Epargne in August, Amador could ride without pressure. He won the opening 7.5km prologue by seven seconds, something of a yawning chasm considering the distance.

He was rarely out of the top ten for the rest of the race, riding a strong time trial and finishing ahead of future Tour de France contender Tejay Van Garderen on the summit finish at Guzet-Neige. He would end up fifth overall, with future teammate Rui Costa a few places above him.

His first pro season didn’t start off too well, with a broken collarbone in March impeding his progress. Before long though, he would settle into his assigned role at the team – that of a dependable role player, helping Luis León Sánchez to win Paris-Nice.

The next season saw him turn history maker, becoming the first Costa Rican to ride a Grand Tour, something Bonilla had never managed during his three seasons with Kelme. The 2010 Giro d’Italia was one of the more exciting GTs in living memory, with Amador’s teammate David Arroyo coming close to taking the overall win thanks to a mid-race breakaway.

Steenwijk - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - ENECO Tour - proloog - tijdrijden - tijdrit - zeitfahren - contre le montre - Andrey Amador Bikkazakova (Caisse D'epargne) - foto Carla Vos/Cor Vos ©2010
Amador riding for Caisse d’Epargne in 2010 (Cor Vos)

Amador ended up forty-first in that race, with Arroyo hanging on for second. The Costa Rican had proven worthy of a new contract, but an incident in the New Year saw both his life and career hang in the balance.

While out training in his home country, Amador was mugged for his bike by a gang. He was left for dead, lying in a riverbed unconscious for six hours before he was found. Cuts and bruises were the initial diagnosis, but it was later found that one of his kidneys had shut down due to the severity of the beating.

Miraculously, he was back on his bike the following month, going on to finish fourth at the GP Llodio and Vuelta La Rioja in April before disaster struck again. This time it was another broken collarbone, putting him out of the Giro squad. Another landmark came later in the season as he became the first Costa Rican to ride the Tour de France.

After the annus horribilis of 2011, the following season, for the newly-sponsored Movistar team, was his best yet. Ninth in January’s Tour de San Luís was the strongest stage race result of his pro career, but it was nothing compared to what happened in May.

The fourteenth stage of the Giro was the first summit finish. Amador was in the breakaway for the second time in three days, having finished third into Sestri Levante on stage twelve.

Cervinia - Italia - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Andrey Amador (Movistar) celebrating his victory on the podium pictured during stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia 2012 - from Cherasco to Cervinia - foto Cor Vos ©2012
Celebrating victory at the 2012 Giro (Cor Vos)

On the road to Breuil-Cervinia he was not to be denied though, beating Jan Bárta and Alessandro De Marchi to the win, the first of his career. A solid twenty-ninth on GC showed a glimpse of his future potential.

A strong start to the following season, including an eighth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, was cut short in April. Another broken collarbone (his fifth), caused by a crash in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, meant it looked like it might be another year to forget.

He returned to racing after a month out and was showed enough form to make the Tour squad, helping Nairo Quintana to second overall. Later on bad luck struck again, as a bout of mononucleosis interrupted the second half of his season.

He was back at the Giro last year, part of Quintana’s triumphant campaign, while a team time trial victory at the Vuelta a España was another high point. This year’s edition has seen him break out as a big-time rider in his own right though.

A strong fifth-place finish in the team time trial was followed up by hanging with the big names on the early summit finishes at Abetone and Campitello Matese.

The windswept mid-race time trial around the Prosecco-producing Province of Treviso saw him finish fifteenth, catapulting him into the podium places. The next few days featured more mountain-top finishes, with Amador limiting his losses admirably on the stages to Madonna di Campiglio and Aprica.

Verbania - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Team Lotto Soudal) - Andrey Amador (Movistar) - Fabio Aru (Astana) pictured during Giro d'Italia 2015 - stage-18 - from Melide to Verbania - photo IB/LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2015
Racing to Verbania this May (Cor Vos)

For all his efforts, Astana’s Mikel Landa managed to wrest third place from him, but Amador managed to hold off a resurgent Ryder Hesjedal in the final trio of mountain stages to hold on to his fourth place.

Even Amador has been surprised at what he has achieved this month. He put his improvement down to weight loss, claiming that he’s five kilograms lighter than he was at Cervinia three years ago. But while he may be getting slimmer, his pay cheque won’t be – his contract is up for renewal at the end of the season.

Something else to note is the absence of team leaders Quintana and Alejandro Valverde. With the duo both focused on the Tour, it’s the first opportunity Amador has had to race a Grand Tour for himself.

According to journalists in the small Central American country, one of whom made the trip to Milan for the final stage, Amador has risen to the status of national hero back home. His is a star on the rise, and for a man who has so many firsts under his belt already, you have to wonder what his next might be.

Passo dell Stelvio - Italia - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Andrey Amador (Movistar) pictured during stage 20 of the Giro d'Italia 2012 - from Val di Sole to Passo dell Stelvio - foto Cor Vos ©2012
Climbing the Stelvio in 2012 (Cor Vos)