Thursday, June 17, 2010

Euskaltel valiant in Swiss mountains

Euskaltel were at their aggressive best and really put their mark on today's queen-stage in the Tour de Suisse, but in the end they came up short. As I had hoped before the stage, both Amets and JJ made it into the break of the day along with eleven other strong riders. Several cols were on the menu today, and as a consequence a rider in the break, namely Wouter Poels of Vacansoleil, took over the mountains jersey due to the big amount of points on offer. Aitor Hernández is now ranked fourth in that particular competition, but there's still some stages to go so he might still try to to get in a break or two to give it a shot at reclaiming it. Due to some selfless and clever riding by JJ, Javier is still in possession of the blue intermediate sprint jersey. Mathias Frank of BMC would have snatched it from him had he taken first in both sprints today. The first one he got. The second one he though he got. But just when he started to slow down some 50 metres from the 'line', thinking he had it won, JJ came flying past him to just nip the six points on the line and thus making sure Javier still leads that competition. Frank was furious at JJ, gesticulating wildly. Well, it's a bike race, isn't it Frank? This isn't some charity event, and JJ was well in his right to defend his team-mate's jersey. Bravo JJ! On the last, huge climb, with it's summit situated at about 13 clicks from the line, the leading group, including Amets and JJ, split up. JJ had launched an attack earlier on and was soon on his way back to the peloton, but Amets, together with the ever-green Garate, proved to be the strongest. After catching the impressive Brice Feillu and going straight past him in an instance, the Spanish duo soldiered on alone until Gesink, the eventual stage winner, caught and passed them with some 4 kilometres to go 'til the top. Amets tried to stay with Gesink, Schleck and co. but naturally found the tempo too hot to handle and started drifting backwards. Jonathan, who occupied ninth on GC going into the stage, suffered the misfortune of puncturing while in the select group of favourites on the last climb. He had to make do with his flatted wheel for a while before getting a new one due to the obvious problem of getting the support car up to him, and as a consequence wasted a lot of energy just trying to cling on. Eventually he went too far into the red zone and went out the back, but the neo-pro still showed impressive form by crossing the finish-line in 26th place, no more than 6:40 down. That's not too bad for a young newbie in a race of this calibre, is it? Amets came in exactly two minutes and forty seconds ahead of Jonathan in 22nd place, while JJ lost a big chunk of time towards the end and placed 35th, 8:21 down. Javier, Aitor and Pablo came in side by side 22:51 adrift, while Daniel ended up 25:11 back. Koldo found the going too tough at the start and pulled out of the race alltogether.

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