Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nieve strong in Llodio

Mikel Nieve was among the strongest yesterday in the GP Llodio and eventually grabbed a creditable 8th place. It was a reassuring performance from Antón's right-hand man with a view to the Giro which kicks off in less than two weeks.

The day started off with an eight-man break going clear. Among those were Jorge Azanza, making sure Euskaltel didn't have to pull in the peloton all day. For a while though they had to, as the peloton split in two midway through the race. Euskaltel were caught out and had to do a lot of work to bring it all back together. They succeeded though, and Mikel Nieve and JJ Oroz looked strong on the closing laps. Both were among the frontrunners in the last 20k, but eventually disgraced Santi Pérez escaped inside the last five clicks to win solo by four seconds over a small chase group. In that chase group was Nieve, taking eighth, while Isasi came home with a small group in 25th place 1:01 down. Txurruka was 39th at 1:36, while R Pérez, Oroz and Fernández - making a successful return to racing - ended up 2:59 back in 43rd through 45th place. Urtasun finished the race in 65th place, 4:18 down. Azanza, Sesma and Cazaux are not listed on the official results, so I assume they abandoned underway. Orbea did not have a particularly good day out. Ricardo García, fresh off that impressive eighth overall in Castilla y León, hung on with Isasi and his group and finished a respectable 30th. Only two other riders managed to finish the race: Bizkarra ended up 68th and Bagües 79th.

Mikel Nieve took time out to reflect on the race afterwards as he spoke to the team's website. "I felt really good", he stated. "Santi Pérez was the strongest, he attacked at the right time with real power, and all I can do is to congratulate him. It was a very active and aggressive race right from the start, and it was a little crazy towards the end as well. Rioja tomorrow (today actually) will be my last race before the Giro, so naturally I hope to do a good race."

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