Monday, September 13, 2010

Nieve climbs to glory

Does it get much better than this? Hardly. Watching Mikel Nieve winning solo atop the Cotobello is something I'll remember and cherish for a long time. The lanky climber took his first professional win on the race's queen-stage - how about that for a debut win? - and the timing couldn't possibly be better. It's a massive boost to the team and its fans after the heartbreak that was Igor's abandonment. And what was the name of that guy who titled his review of stage 15 "Nieve comes of age" yesterday? Oh my, I think that was me. Yeah, being right (for once) is the best. Bragging about it is not, though, so I'll leave it at that. But he really came of age today, climbing his way into Euskaltel hearts all over the world.

Realising they had nothing to lose by leaving it all out on the road, the Euskaltel guys went gung-ho from the off and sent one rider after the other on the attack. JJ Oroz got lucky and got into the break of the day on this terribly hard stage widely perceived as the stage of this year's race. On the cat.1 San Lorenzo ascent, Nieve and Amets Txurruka jumped out of the peloton in search of the break which was about three minutes up the road at that time. Several riders tried to give chase, but to no avail. The duo was scampering up the mountain and soon they got a reinforcement. Canny DS Gerrikagoitia ordered JJ Oroz to sit up and wait for his companions, so as to assist the diminutive, sylf-like duo on their mission. Cresting the climb just a minute and a half down, the trio quickly caught up with the remnants of the break on the descent and was now in the envious situation of having three strong climbers in the break with only one major mountain left to climb. Team-work perfectionated. Exhausted but happy, JJ went out the back of the steadily-diminishing front group now consisting of Mikel, Amets, LL Sánchez, Peterson and De Weert. Amets, working for his stronger team-mate, sacrificed his own ambitions by hammering away at the front of the group and augmented the gap back to the hard-chasing peloton. On the early slopes of the Cotobello, Mikel put in a devastating burst of speed to accelerate away from his fellow escapees and open up a considerable gap. The group of favourites, lead by F Schleck, got closer as the kilometres went by, but there was no catching Mikel today. He climbed like a God to finish solo in front of hords of orange-clad Euskaltel fanatics, a massive 1:06 ahead of Schleck. Cue pandemonium. The joy on Mikel's face was there for all to see as he raised his arms in jubilation, pointing to the sky. Taking your first ever win on the Vuelta's queen-stage to the summit of the never-before-used Cotobello is setting the bar high. I for one am looking forward to his next win. Despite doing an awful lot of pace-setting and all-out riding in the service of Mikel early on, Amets hung on admirably to grab 28th at 6:45. JJ, Verdugo and Urtasun all crossed the line 25:27 behind, while Koldo came in 36:26 adrift. Due to his win, Mikel sneaked his way to 11h overall, just seven seconds off the impressive Garcia Dapena in 10th. Mikel is likely to lose quite a bit of time in Wednesday's 46km ITT, but with the Bola del Mundo coming up on Saturday, who knows what he's got in store for us.

The feeling of 'justice is done' was palpable in the Euskaltel camp post-race. Not surprisingly, Mikel dedicated his win to his fallen (no, they're not dead) team-mates: "We dedicate this win to Igor, our leader, and Egoi. We were in the process of making history in this Vuelta with Igor leading, but in the blink of an eye everything was lost. He was the strongest in this Vuelta without a shadow of a doubt." He was also quick to praise his team-mates' exceptional work. "The team was brilliant, I have no words to describe it", the 26-year-old stated. "Oroz and Txurruka have been incredible. It was a spectacular victory. I'm now 11th overall, but I'm not thinking of the general classification. What I value more is that we've picked ourselves up from a difficult situation thanks to the help of everyone; riders, directors and soigneurs. It's my first win as a professional and I've taken it in the best possible manner, winning the queen-stage of the Vuelta."

1 comment:

azanca02 said...

That was just awesome team work!!! I was only able to read the live feed while at work but man was that amazing! Nieve and Amets are doing great this year and Nieve could have the chance to win a Kind of the Mountains jersey one year.


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