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Spanish pro makes it two in a row at Vietnam's HTV Cup

By Jon Aspin   June 8, 2020 | 12:03 am PT
HCMC rider Javier Sardá Perez has won Vietnam's premier cycling race, the 18-stage HTV Cup, for the second year in a row.

"I’m super happy to repeat my victory today," he told VN Express International after finishing Sunday’s final stage.

Leading by a margin of 35 seconds over Domesco Dong Thap rider, Nguyen Tan Hoai, Perez’s team were able to control the final 163 km from Bao Loc to Ho Chi Minh City to maintain his advantage. However, Perez stressed he had to remain focused until the very end.

"Everything could still happen today, so I couldn’t relax until I crossed the finish line with my teammates."

"Thank you to them for their hard work every day and thank you to my family, friends and sponsors who have supported me on this journey."

Javier Sardá Perez on the winning podium at the HTV Cup closing ceremony in HCMC, June 7, 2020. Photo by HTV.

Javier Sardá Perez on the winning podium at the HTV Cup closing ceremony in HCMC, June 7, 2020. Photo by HTV.

Global attention

While racing has remained suspended in Europe due to Covid-19, Perez’s win has earned the race international headlines and media attention, particularly in his native Spain, where cycling is extremely popular.

"Javier conquers Vietnam again," wrote El Mundo, one of Spain’s biggest daily newspapers, while popular cycling site Ciclismo a Fondo said he had become "a media star in Vietnam after arriving via Japan three years ago."

On his Instagram page, the 32-year-old paid his own tribute to all those who had helped him and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity Vietnam was giving him, especially at this time.

"When I arrived in 2017, I didn't think I would be here with the yellow jersey two years in a row. But this is not an accident, because behind the success is a lot of suffering."

"I had to fight to make my passion a professional career, and I still love it every day. Next year we will be back for a third yellow!"

A winning strategy

Beginning on the revised date of May 19 after new coronavirus restrictions forced organizers to re-think, the field of 84 riders covered 2,195 km before arriving behind final stage winner Le Ngoc Son, of the Tap Doan Loc Troi team, at Saigon’s Notre-Dame Cathedral on Sunday morning.

Asked what his strategy had been to defend his overall title, Perez pinpointed his birthday win on stage 15 as critical. It was on this day, a 123 km climbing stage from Phan Rang to Da Lat, that he was able to open the 40-second time gap that would prove decisive.

Javier Sarda Perez wins stage 15 of the HTV Cup in Da Lat on June 4, 2020. Photo by HTV.

Javier Sarda Perez wins stage 15 of the HTV Cup in Da Lat on June 4, 2020. Photo by HTV.

Not only did the stage win earn him the yellow leader’s jersey, but also assured him of the red-polka dots of the king of the mountain classification. In the sprint competition, he also placed third.

"This race is super long with 18 stages, so it’s really important to know when to spend your power and to do it well," he said.

"You must wait for your moment, as I did in Da Lat, and then go full gas."

A strong start for Vietnam

Streamed live each day on Facebook and YouTube, this year’s race gained extra exposure among international cycling fans thirsty for action.

Vietnam Cycling Federation (VCF) General Secretary Nguyen Ngoc Vu said while it was difficult to fully quantify the additional eyeballs, he was glad the race could stand as an example of Vietnam’s success in managing the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"This year’s HTV Cup has received special attention from Vietnamese cycling fans especially, through interaction with the tournaments fan page, and congratulations to each of the team’s riders.

"HTV Cup has become more than a mere sporting event, but also a strong start for Vietnam after the threat of Covid-19.

"We will try hard to keep the fire that this race has created burning from now until the end of the year."

The next major race on the Vietnamese cycling calendar is VTV Cup in September. More international riders are expected to be able to take part.

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