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"It was a risky change after doing the same job forever. Now I am very happy. In my first year as a leader, I wanted to get good results but I never thought of a top 10 in the Tour. It never went through my mind," Navarro tells Bi...

Photo: Sirotti


13.11.2013 @ 11:49 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After several years of working as a trusted domestique for Alberto Contador, Daniel Navarro made a bold move when he signed a contract with Cofidis prior to the 2013 season. With his first year as a team leader and a top 10 results in the Tour de France under his belt, the Spaniard is happy with the outcome of his gamble and is targeting more grand tour success in 2014.


For years, Daniel Navarro was known as Alberto Contador's close friend and one of his strongest domestiques in the mountains. Riding for teams like Astana and Saxo Bank, the Spaniard was often seen preparing the stinging attacks of his captain and seemed content to put his personal ambitions aside.


With Contador being banned for his positive test for clenbuterol, Navarro got his chance to chase personal success in the first half of the 2012 season. A 3rd place in both the Tour de Mediteraneen and the Tour de l'Ain as well as a stage win in the latter event showed that Navarro still has the potential that allowed him to finish 5th in the Volta a Catalunya and 4th in the Deutschland Tour in 2008 when he was still regarded as a young talent.


At 29 years of age, Navarro took the bold decision to leave his well-known role and his friend to take on a leadership role at the Cofidis team. Alongside Rein Taaramae, Christophe Le Mevel and Jerome Coppel, the Spaniard had the responsibility of delivering stage race success for the French team.


Navarro got his career as a team leader off to a fantastic start when he won the Vuelta a Murcia in February. He rode solidly in the Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya, finishing 12th and 16th respectively, but it was in the summer that he really shone in his new role. Being one of the strongest climbers in the race, he finished 5th in the Criterium du Dauphiné and he saved what was otherwise a very disappointing Tour for his team when he made it into the overall top 10.


That result showed his tenacity and character. Having been involved in crashes in the early part of the race, he lost much time in the Pyrenees and found himself far back on GC by the time they entered the third week. However, Navarro made it into key breaks on two stages towards the end of the race and defended himself well enough on the final mountain stage to Annecy-Semnoz to finish 9th overall.


Looking back at his first season in his new role, Navarro is happy with the outcome.


"It was a risky change after doing the same job forever," he told Biciciclismo. "Now I am very happy. In my first year as a leader, I wanted to get good results but I never thought of a top 10 in the Tour. It never went through my mind. Honestly, I didn't feel any pressure before the Tour as Taaramae and Coppel were in principle ahead of me [in the hierarchy]. Since they failed in the Dauphiné, the team worked for me though. That gives you more fear that you will fail. When I lost nine minutes on the first days in the mountains, I was bummed but it gives you motivation to continue and pay back your teammates. In the Tour, we had pretty much lost everything but in the end, I got into breaks and everything went well.


"On the first stage, seven of our riders crashes but the biggest crash was on the second day back home [on the French mainland]. That really took me down because I had a lot of pain and my feelings on the bike were bad. My body would not let me suffer. The turning point was the day with the echelons. I felt very good and it changed my mind. I had lost more than 20 minutes and focused on finding breakaways and trying to win a stage."


A bad end

While Navarro was happy with the first part of his season, it all ended badly. He crashed in the Vuelta a Burgos, hurting his mouth, and while he didn't plan to race too much in the second half of the year, it put a bitter end to his first year as a Cofidis rider.


"The truth is that I was unlucky with my crash in Burgos but at least it was at the end of the season. I had no plans of riding the Vuelta because the Tour had already been very hard.  I've been annoyed because I had a lot of pain in my mouth and I had to have an implant replace a tooth.  I had two operations and had to stop training early. I wanted to continue until mid-September but had to stop almost a month earlier."


Looking for more grand tour success

With his 2013 season having been brought to an early end, Navarro has had plenty of time to plan the coming year. The grand tours will once again be the main focus.


"With more experience, I hope to do at least as well or even better next year," he said. "I have now learnt how to handle my new role, when you need to be on the front and when you have to be more calm. I think I can do a little better: win a race and above all be a significant presence in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana. And in the beginning of the season I would like to do well in the Paris-Nice which is important for my team, and the Volta a Catalunya."


In 2013, Navarro showed that he can also excel as a one-day rider when he won the Vuelta a Murcia. Next year he may give the classics a shot.


"I know nothing about the calendar," he said. "We will finalize it in December during the training camp but I guess I will start in Andalucia. The Basque Country? The Ardennes? It depends how I feel. If i do well in the Paris-Nice, it will not be easy to maintain the condition until Liege. This year I rode it for the first time and I liked it. I would like to ride those classics, I think Liege suits me well."


However, one race remains his main focus.


"My childhood dream has always been to win a stage in the Tour de France," he said. "This year I came close in the stage where Rui Costa took his second win [stage 19 that finished in Le-Grand-Bornand] but the nerves hampered me. Coppel delivered me well but I was focussed on the overall top 10 and made tactical mistakes


"I will struggle in the pavé stage but first of all I want to be at a good level in the mountains," he added about next year's course. "I know that if I'm at my best I can go into a breakaway or attack on the final climb if I'm not among the best. If I go for the GC, I would like to once again finish in the top 10 or get close to the top 5."


Unlike this season, Navarro also has his sights set on his home grand tour.


"I've done the Giro three times and it is the grand tour that I like the least," he said. "However, I am very excited about the Vuelta, knowing that it will pass through Asturias and Leon near my house. This year I watched it on television and when I saw [Nicolas] Roche near the top, I thought that I could also be there."


Due to his crash, Navarro has been back in training earlier than usual and is now preparing for his first training camp that will kick off in Catalonia on December 11.



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