Monday, August 20, 2012

Antón (just) survives first test

Igor Antón limited his losses to a minimum in today's first proper test for the GC candidates in the Vuelta a España.

The stage over Arrate and down to Eibar was never going to separate the overall favourites all that much, but four riders clearly stood out above the rest as the first blows were traded between the guys with general classification aspirations. Contador, looking as sharp as ever if somewhat stressed, Valverde, Rodríguez and Froome were easily the riders with the best legs as the likes of Antón, Gesink, Intxausti, Roche, Mollema, Urán and Moreno were always left playing catch-up as the quartet attacked each other repeatedly.

Antón never looked at ease and was terribly isolated as Txurruka, Verdugo and Landa in particular flattered to deceive. While Landa's no-show was disappointing, Antón's struggles will worry the team bosses considerably more. Granted, it's still early days and Arrate isn't the climb best suited to him, but he looked far from top shape. He'll probably get better as the race progresses and the climbs get longer though, so no need to press the alarm button just yet.

Luckily for Antón, the differences weren't big at all. Valverde pipped Purito to the triumph, while Antón and his small select group came in only six seconds in arrears. Taking 12th on the stage propelled the Euskaltel leader to 10th overall.

Somewhat surprisingly, but naturally in keeping with his ever-optimistic view of things, he expressed delight at his own performance afterwards.

"It was an agonizing climb right from the start, but I'm content as I got the confirmation that I'm in good shape", he told "It was difficult to win as the explosive riders had an advantage. I'm looking optimistically towards the future, and the important thing is that I improve as we go. I think I've got the experience to fight for the Vuelta and I know I've got to keep calm to stay in the fight to reach my goals all the way to the end".

As for the rest of the team, some were solid and some failed to deliver. As already mentioned, Landa was never close and came in a huge 1:52 back, while Verdugo looked decent in 18th place at no more than 47 seconds. Txurruka wasn't far off either, while three traditionally strong climbers, Astarloza, Sicard and Velasco, clearly have a lot of work to do if they are to be of any use to their team leader in the mountains.

Up tomorrow is a demanding stage to the Valdezcaray ski station, and as such an opportunity for Antón's team-mates to show that he's not fighting for the Vuelta all by himself.

A big thumbs up goes out to the supporters lining the roadside at Arrate. They were out in force and added colour to an already exhilarating race.

Stage three results:
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 3:49:37)
  • 12, Igor Antón, 0:06
  • 18, Gorka Verdugo, 0:47
  • 25, Amets Txurruka, 0:50
  • 35, Iván Velasco, 1:28
  • 36, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 43, Romain Sicard, s.t.
  • 52, Mikel Landa, 1:52
  • 71, Juan José Oroz, 3:23
  • 123, Rubén Pérez, 6.43
General classification:
  • (1, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 8:46:56)
  • 10, Igor Antón, 0:46
  • 20, Gorka Verdugo, 1:27
  • 23, Amets Txurruka, 1:39
  • 34, Romain Sicard, 2:08
  • 35, Mikel Astarloza, s.t.
  • 43, Mikel Landa, 2:35
  • 54, Iván Velasco, 3:33
  • 64, Juan José Oroz, 4:03
  • 123, Rubén Pérez, 8:48


Kristof said...

I'm satisfied with Anton's ride. He was good, if you compare this to last year...We may not expect miracles, Contador and Joaquin are probably the most explosive climbers in the world, it's not a shame he could not follow them. Gorka Verdugo was amazing, please let this man ride for his own chances, he's able to ride top 15! Amets and Velasco were also good, and Sicard didn't dissappoint. Only Landa, he's a great talent without any doubt, but his class we see not much, last year in Burgos one day and one day this year in Romandie. If he wants to be a GC rider there's still a lot of work to do! But I'm satisfied, I was afraid after the really shamefull San Sebastian Race.

Kristof said...

PS: are the rumours Nieve going to Saxo true?

Stephen said...

I only saw it on the TV highlits here (ITV4) but he looked like he was a little far back starting the climb and was always struggling to get to the front group and find time to catch his breath. He got to then the last time and then Contador went off like a rocket, no way he could follow.

I thought he did ok though.

Great stage with a huge, passionate crowd on the mountain, must have been fantastic to ride with that support


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