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Vuelta a Espana

Carlos Barredo finally scores big at the Vuelta a Espana

Carlos Barredo is celebrating a strong win at the Vuelta on Sunday, but Andrew Hood reports the Spaniard has bigger ambitions.

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If there’s someone who’s ready to pick up the mantle from über-attacker Jens Voigt, it’s Spain’s Carlos Barredo. The Quick Step marauder is often on the sharp end of the action with daring attacks and aggressive riding that reflects his fiery character.

On a soggy Sunday in his native Asturias, Barredo carved his name among the list of winners on one of Spain’s most emblematic climbs on the summit finish at Lagos de Covadonga, deep in the heart of the rugged Picos de Europa.

Barredo tore clear of a breakaway and then fended off the GC favorites to claim what he described as the most important victory of his career. And he did it with a unique victory salute; an up-and-down slicing gesture with his finger over his chest.

“That was for my father,” an emotional Barredo explained at the summit. “He has a scar on his chest where they had to open him up a few years ago.”

No one could ever accuse Barredo of not having heart. The intensely emotional 29-year-old rides with his heart on his sleeve and leaves everything on the road.

A pro since 2004, Barredo was one of “Manolo’s boys” under controversial sport director Manolo Saiz at Liberty Seguros, who, along with Alberto Contador and Luís León Sánchez, heralded a new generation of Spanish riders. Untainted by the Operación Puerto doping scandal that sank the team, Barredo joined Quick Step in 2007 and began knocking on the door of big-time success.

Barredo first tasted success with a breakaway win at the 2008 Paris-Nice, a win taken in the bashing style of Voigt. He’s come close to winning stages at the Tour de France, and was on the attack several times this year, including joining Lance Armstrong’s stage 16 attack across the Pyrénées.

His intensity can sometimes carry to extremes and the world caught a glimpse of it during this year’s Tour, when an enraged Barredo attacked Rui Costa of Caisse d’Epargne with his front wheel after stage 6. A humbled Barredo apologized to Costa and the cycling community the next morning, insisting that wasn’t who he really is.

Barredo dreams of winning a northern classic like Liège-Bastogne-Liège or Paris-Roubaix and last summer claimed the Clásica San Sebastián, providing a preview of bigger things to come in Belgium and northern France.

His immediate future is clear – he was going to celebrate his victory Sunday evening with his Quick Step teammates by drinking the tangy “sidra” of Spain’s Asturias region. His near future less so; he’s considering an offer to join Rabobank for 2011 and said he hasn’t made up his mind. His price might be a little dearer after Sunday’s big ride.

He hails from Gijón, the start of Monday’s stage, and often trains with the “Asturian crew” that also includes Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez, Dani Navarro, Chechu Rubiera and Benjamin Noval.

Barredo completed a circle of sorts Sunday. When he was a teenager, Barredo had already gotten the cycling bug, but his parents were hesitant to buy him an expensive road bike. He made a bet with his parents, and won.

“I bet them that if I could ride from my grandparents’ house (in El Picu) to the top of Lagos de Covadonga, about 60km, on my mountain bike, that they would buy me a bicycle,” Barredo said. “I managed to do it and my father saw that I was serious. That was a Sunday and the next day, he went to buy me a road bike.”

That investment proved valuable and Barredo paid back the debt with the victory salute to his father Sunday some 15 years later.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.