Sunday, June 17, 2012

Brave Nieve comes up short

Mikel Nieve put it all on the line with several daring attacks on today's final stage in the Tour de Suisse, but the Euskaltel captain was forced to settle for fifth overall.

The race's queen-stage, a 215,8km trek from Näfels-Lintharena to Sörenberg, saw plenty of aggressive riding as overall leader Rui Costa's nearest challengers, namely Schleck, Nieve, Gesink and Danielson, made their moves at various points in the race in an attempt to wrestle the yellow jersey off the shoulders of the Portuguese.

Nieve lit the blue touch paper with a somewhat surprising acceleration on the second HC.-categorized climb of the day, a full 45 kilometres out. Nieve soon got the elder Schleck and Danielson for company, but the Euskaltel climber equally quickly had to let go off the duo as the pace put him too far into the red. Despite holding a significant gap at the top of the climb with a descent and a cat.2- climb to the line to come, Schleck took the weird decision to sit up and wait for the group of contenders behind, seemingly not too keen on riding the final 30 clicks on his own. It proved his undoing though as the final climb was much easier than what the stage profile made it out to be, and Movistar's Costa was able to hang onto his lead pretty easily as the attacks dried up.

Nieve had a dig inside the last kilometre in a desperate attempt to dislodge Gesink and Leipheimer and thus move into the top three, but it wasn't to be and he crossed the line alongside all the other GC players almost two minutes down on breakaway winner Tanel Kangert of Astana.

The 28-year-old native of Leitza thus ended up fifth on GC - by far his best overall result so far in his career.

Gorka Izagirre and Mikel Astarloza, so strong yesterday, found it tougher to keep up today and couldn't keep up on the second HC.-climb. Nieve was thus awfully isolated, and the duo's travails put paid to Euskaltel's hopes of hanging on to their lead in the team standings. Astarloza led home a small group containing Izagirre, who earlier on had tried to get into the break of the day, 8:49 down, meaning they went on to finish a respectable 20th and 22nd respectively.

Sicard had a decent day in the saddle, setting the pace at the head of the pack for a while as the break's lead hovered around the 10-minute mark. Perhaps he's coming into some kind of form just at the right time - the Tour de France roster will probably be revealed next week.

Stage nine results:
  • (1, Tanel Kangert (Astana), 5:54:22)
  • 13, Mikel Nieve, 1:48
  • 29, Mikel Astarloza, 8:49
  • 33, Gorka Izagirre, s.t.
  • 64, Romain Sicard, 20:10
  • 85, Rubén Pérez, 29:17
  • 91, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
Final general classification:
  • (1, Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Movistar), 35:54:49)
  • 5, Mikel Nieve, 0:40
  • 20, Mikel Astarloza, 10:22
  • 22, Gorka Izagirre, 10:41
  • 69, Rubén Pérez, 1:02:20
  • 79, Romain Sicard, 1:15:37
  • 91, Pablo Urtasun, 1:46:43

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