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Will Barta – ‘Getting my first win was a big box ticked off’

Come what may in the rest of 2024, for Movistar racer Will Barta, this year is already a season he will always remember. 

Back in early February, the American secured his first-ever pro win, the final stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, breaking away for 81 kilometres to beat the pack solo by eight seconds. 

It was a hard-fought victory that the 28-year-old had been searching for ever since he turned pro in 2019, with one of the nearest misses coming when he held the lead in the 2020 Vuelta a España third week TT, only to be beaten by the last rider to start, one Primož Roglič, by one second.

Losing to the rider who then went on to win the Vuelta outright was no disgrace whatsoever, but as Barta told Cycling News during the recent O Gran Camiño, getting that first win in the bag at Valencia this February was a breakthrough moment.

“Obviously you do wonder a little bit – will I ever win?” Barta said, “Because at the end it’s not that many riders who win races. So for me, it was a big box to tick off because once you see if it’s possible, even if not in the most conventional way, it gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

It likely helped that Barta’s winter training had been “very good” allowing him to build on his condition and go for the win.

“I’d spent time at altitude, but I would say the biggest thing, honestly is that in the first years in my career, I didn’t have good winters, I kept having injuries,” said Barta. “So to have these two consecutive [good] years, it kind of stacks on each one, and keeps building and I think that’s the biggest key to getting good form.”

Barta’s stepping up a level was reflected at the opening time trial of O Gran Camiño, where he took a very promising fourth place behind stage winner Josh Tarling (Ineos Grenadiers). It was a special result, too, because given the weather was so bad, no TT bikes were allowed and the times did not count for GC.

“I always like the time trials bikes, but it was impossible, we tried, so I figure it was the right call to move to road bikes,” Barta told Cycling News. “I went out with the same power plan as for on my time trial bike, because in the end it was not counting for GC but a win is a win.” 

“It was always going to be hard to beat Tarling, and for me, as a rider who’s quite small, I’d say it was harder on a road bike. But in any case, he was on another level, there was no beating him.”

Barta said that even if he was adversely affected by the lack of a TT bike, the weather was so bad, it would have been impossible to use it.

“After doing the recon I was a little scared because I couldn’t even complete it on my TT bike, it was so windy,” he said. “So I was a little apprehensive in the first corner, I  wouldn’t say took too many risks. But I thought anyway it was a good way to open up for the week and push.”

Things got a lot more complicated for Barta and the rest of the peloton on stage 2, when the freezing rain and winds made for what he told Cycling News was “probably the coldest I’ve ever been on a bike”.

“I had to stop twice in the last 30 kilometres just to change clothes, I was completely dead. It was just one of those things, that’s bike racing sometimes. I mean I knew before the race my form was good, but stage 2 took it out of me and that took it out of me on stage 3, too.”

On the plus side, racing in Galicia also provided an unexpected indirect morale boost as his squad, Movistar, had one of the most popular local riders present, Carlos Canal, who ran second on stage 3.

That day started in Canal’s home town of Xinzo de Limia and Barta said that “it was super-cool to see all the people out there supporting him.”

“It’s super-nice for him but nice for us too, it gives you extra motivation helping to support him. You feel like you’re in a home team.”

Finally 79th overall in O Gran Camiño, Barta now goes on to race in Paris-Nice but was unable to reveal yet what the team plans were for him after that. But after his debut pro win in Valencia, he’ll surely be pushing for a second victory in 2024 as quickly as possible.

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
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