In "The Start Ramp," veteran cycling cyber-journalist Sarah tracks and reports on the Tour's Young Rider Competition (riders under 25 on Jan. 1) and Tour first-timers.

David De La Fuente
David De La Fuente
Photo Saunier-Duval
Saturday, July 15, 2006

Rider profile: David De La Fuente

The young riders at this year's Tour are doing more than just competing for the maillot blanc. They are riding as hard as they can and accomplishing quite a bit. Two years ago, a young rider named Thomas Voeckler managed to grab the yellow jersey. This year a young rider has managed to wear the king of the mountains jersey for several days. He even lost it once and regained it on what might be the hardest stage of the Tour.

That young rider is Spain's David De La Fuente of the Saunier Duval Prodir team. At 25 (his birthday was May 4th), he's on the tail end of maillot blanc eligibility. Unlike many of his fellow young riders, De La Fuente has yet to win a race in his professional career. He has had several good finishes, including some before he became a professional.

De La Fuente rode for Saunier Duval's amateur team in 2002, eventually going pro in 2003. During his first year as a pro, he finished eighth in the Campeonato de España. He finished fifth on stage seven and four of the Vuelta a Catalunya. He finished second on stage one and two of the Bicicleta Vasca.

His 2004 season was unremarkable, though he did finish eighth in the Clásica Almería. The next year, he had a few good results. He finished sixth overall in the Circuito Getxo. He also finished eighth in the Euskal Bizikleta and third in the Trofeo Calviá.

His 2006 is turning out to be a much better year. Through stage 12 in his first Tour de France, De La Fuente has worn the KOM jersey three times (Stages 2, 11 and 12) and he's been second for seven stages (3-9). It was on stage 10 that he went from ninth to first. But it was on stage 11 that he made a strong impression.

De La Fuente was part of a break that included the German Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner). Wegmann previously wore the jersey on the first stage, dropping to second on stage two and then to third for the next stages (except for stage 10). The race for the KOM jersey has turned into something it's not been for several years -- competitive.

According to Cyclingnews De La Fuente said "Wegmann and Dessel, who is now second on the classification, will surely try to fight over the points jersey with me," he said. "But I think I will keep it until the Alps. I'm very tired today but I will have recuperated then I hope."

On the heels of his extraordinary performance on stage 11 (when he took first in every climb except the finish), Saunier Duval has extended De Le Fuente's contract through 2007. Mauro Gianetti (Saunier's team manager) told Cyclingnews that "He is an extremely tough rider, a big engine with incredible power," he stated. "What he did today is fantastic and he should wear the mountains jersey for the next few days. This morning, I was very happy to agree on a contract with him for 2007."

Hopefully we'll see more of De La Fuente in the Alps as well as other races!