Saturday, March 26, 2011

Samu cracks on l'Ospedale

Much was expected of Samuel Sánchez today on the first stage of the Critérium International. Just like last year, the stage ended atop the mighty l'Ospedale, a 14km climb suited to Samu's characteristics. To make sure Samu was in a position to duke it out for the win, the team took control of the peloton early on and made sure any breaks didn't get too far away. The team, consisting of only seven riders after Pello Bilbao had to withdraw from the roster due to a crash in training here the other day, did a fabulous job in controlling the race, and everything was set for Samu to have a dig. Have a dig he did, as he jumped clear with erstwhile team-mate David López and talented French grimpeur Geniez some six kilometres from the top in search of the elder Schleck and the unpredictable Taaramae, the duo having attacked a kilometre or so earlier. Samu set a relentless pace and looked just fine but, suddenly, out of the blue, he cracked and had to let López and Geniez go. It was a rare sight: Mr. consistent and dependable if there ever was one, always judging his efforts to perfection, had miscalculated and blew up just like that. Having gone out the back, he struggled all the way to the top, and by the end he'd condeded a full 1:48 to F Schleck. Finishing 18th was certainly not what he was hoping for, but he didn't seem to heartbroken at the finish. "I attacked in search of the win and ended up paying for a long and hard stage", he told the team's website. "The pace was frantic all day long. We went over seven categorized climbs in very demanding terrain, and at the end I was left without forces". As the other riders on the team had spent most day powering the pack along, they finished way back. Verdugo was 37th at 7:58, Velasco 53rd at 14:14, Txurruka 66th at 17:52 and Martínez was 74th at 20:08. JJ Oroz suffered the misfortune of finishing outside the time limit, whilst Jonathan Castoviejo failed to complete the stage.

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