Rider of the week
Rein Taaramäe never had an easy road since turning pro. After an excellent 2008 – during which he won the Tour de l’Ain, the mountains classification at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and finished 3rd at the Tour de Romandie – he was being tipped as a future Grand Tour champion. But nothing materialized in the following years, his best result coming in the 2011 Tour de France, where he was 11th and missed the white jersey for 46 seconds. What were the reasons because of which the Estonian rider didn’t fulfill the huge expectations people had?
First of all, the pressure was too big for Taaramäe, who seemed to lack the mental strength that usually makes the difference at a top level. Another cause were the health problems he endured before finding a solution last Spring, when he underwent a larynx operation to remove an obstruction that was inhibiting his breathing. But besides that, there was another thing that hammered Taaramäe’s GC hopes: he always had a bad day during a three-week race, which lead to him losing a handful of minutes and thus getting out of contention for a top 10 in the GC.
At one point, Rein Taaramäe considered quitting cycling, but eventually shrugged off the disappointments he has had in 2012 and 2013, and decided to give the sport another shot. Last April, he came back stronger, won the queen-stage of the Tour of Turkey and finished 2nd in the overall classification. Then, in the final weeks of the season, the Estonian landed another victory, this time in the Tour du Doubs, followed by a move to Astana, his first World Tour team.
In 2015, Taaramäe opened his campaign in February, with the Vuelta a Murcia being his debut race for the Kazakh outfit. So last Saturday, Rein Taaramäe rode into a large break which got shape after a mid-race attack and then soloed in the last 40 kilometers, putting aside the huge pain he was feeling in his legs after that big effort and holding off the peloton on the last climb, the Alto Fortaleza del Sol (1600 meters, 6% average gradient).
After his first victory in the Astana kit (which was also the team’s first win of the season), it will be interesting to see what does Rein Taaramäe holds in his sleeve for the rest of the year. A couple of months ago, he said he came to the Kazakh team because he wanted to ride pressure-free, which is exactly what happened in the Vuelta a Murcia. Very likely, he will mix this role with the one of lieutenant for the team’s GC riders. Logical, this means Taaramäe – who looks to have found the perfect environment in Astana – has to put aside his Grand Tour ambitions, at least for 2015. On the other hand, it’s almost certain he won’t mind this, as it will allow him to find a new niche, which could see the Eastern European rider focus on one-day races and week-long stage races from now on and getting more wins under his belt.