Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday round-up: Romandie, Asturias and Álava

Euskaltel placed three riders inside the top 20 on today's third Romandie stage and, perhaps more importantly, still harbour hopes of claiming a top 10 overall with two stages to go as Gorka Verdugo held onto his fifth place. Alan Pérez showed he's an allrounder to be reckoned with by taking an impressive eighth in the 80-man strong peloton, while Velasco and Txurruka took 17th and 19th respectively. Verdugo, of course, and the talented Jon Izagirre also managed to stay with the pack with no real degree of difficulty. Martínez ended up 56 seconds back, whilst Fernández and Castroviejo ended up in the gruppetto some 15 minutes down. Ahead of tomorrow's crucial 20,1km ITT Verdugo is just 46 seconds off the lead. His recent solid showings in the discipline should see him hold on to a top 10 overall if everything goes to plan I reckon. DS Gerrikagoitia was hoping for the same. "Gorka is doing a great race and he's aiming for a top 10 overall", he told the team's website after today's stage. "We set ourselves that goal in Martigny and we're working towards it. He will have to do a very good race tomorrow, and we aim for a top 10 in a race of top quality".

It was a hectic day in the Vuelta a Asturias today. The riders got up early for a short, flat 90km stage to Áviles, which was won by Förster eventually, before taking on a 14km ITT in Piedras Blancas, taken out by the not so popular Stefan Schumacher (if anyone remembers him?). Euskaltel were up there on both occasions but had to settle for creditable placings in the end. Rubén Pérez showed he's still fast by sprinting to sixth on stage 2a, and was closely followed by Isasi in 13th, Aramendía in 17th, Izagirre in 19th and Urtasun in 22nd. The rest of the guys, also including all Orbea riders, also crossed the line inside the peloton. The time trial didn't turn out great, but not too bad either, as Gorka Izagirre showed promise by taking a solid 13th at just 40 seconds. The rest of the riders performed below expectations to be frank: Oroz was 34th, Isasi 38th, Urtasun 40th, Sesma 54th, Pérez 59th and Aramendía 95th. Not too impressive in a rather low-key race. For reason unknown at the time being, Pierre Cazaux did not take the start. Orbea didn't succeed in setting the race alight either, Ricardo García being their best man in 21st place 48 seconds down. Cabedo was a solid 33rd, Martín 46th, Sáez 63rd, Xabalo 75th, Bagües 88th, Etxebarria 92nd and Bizkarra 101st. Going into the last two days Izagirre is the best man in orange so far, lying a healthy 10th overall.

Fernando Grijalba (pictured above) took a mightily impressive and equally important victory for Naturgas Energía in today's second stage of the Three Days of Álava. The punchy climber took off 300 metres out on the lumpy 134km stage ending atop a small climb to Lapuebla de Labarca and beat the rest by a pair of seconds. It capped off a brilliant day's work by the team, something the man himself was at pains to express post-race. "This win is thanks to my companions, I dedicate this victory to them", a diplomatic Grijalba told afterwards. "They did an excellent job throughout the day. Rory (Martínez) and Eduardo (Ardaiz) got into the breaks whilst the others kept me out of trouble in the pack. Towards the end Efrén (Carazo) and Carlos (Barbero) did a brilliant job. They took control of the pack and gave it their utmost on the last incline. It's a great win for everyone on the team and the whole of (the company) Naturgas Energía. I'm very happy to have won what for us must be considered to be our home race. It's a very special and a very nice win". As Grijalba's team-mates worked their socks off all day they naturally finished some way down the standings. Barbero was 51st at 28 seconds, Larrinaga 56th and Carazo 57th at 54, Merino 65th at 1:40 and Ardaiz came home 69th at two minutes twentyseven seconds.

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