Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vuelta stage 9 & Plouay

The expected Euskaltel onslaught on the ramps of the Covatilla failed to materialize in today's ninth stage. The expected rebirth of Antón came to naught, while Mikel Nieve performed solidly, if unspectacularly, to finish the day 15th overall. It was less than what many had anticipated though as Euskaltel, with Pierre Cazaux at the head, helped Katusha, Liquigas et al. with the pace-setting leading into the climb, triggering hopes of strong performances from Antón and Nieve. The former visibly struggled quite early on and went on to finish 33rd, 1:50 down, alongside Scarponi. Nieve seemed strong though - attacking halfway up the climb - but eventually had to settle for 16th place at 41 seconds. Though he dropped a few places on GC as a result, the damage done was not particularly significant and a top 10 place in Madrid is still well within his reach I reckon. Txurruka continued to show flickers of form with a 42nd-place finish at 2:32. Stage results:

  • 16, Nieve, 0:41
  • 33, Antón, 1:50
  • 42, Txurruka, 2:32
  • 52, Oroz, 4:02
  • 75, Martínez, 9:22
  • 81, Verdugo, s.t.
  • 90, Azanza, 12:38
  • 93, Isasi, s.t.
  • 156, Cazaux, 18:46
Heading into tomorrow's decisive ITT in Salamanca, Nieve is 15th and Antón 30th.

True to form, the GP Plouay did not serve Euskaltel well. Izagirre and Fernández tried to get in on the act in the sprint but eventually had to settle for 24th and 30th respectively, while Astarloza had a decent ride and finished mid-pack. On a parcours not exactly suited to them, climber trio Landa, Velasco and Minguez ceded 7:43, while Sicard posted another DNF as the going got a bit too tough towards the end. Peio Bilbao was down to start but does not figure on the list of results. Landa and Minguez are reported to have taken a tumble, but are, according to the team's website, OK.

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