Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Antón's hopes dwindle at Valdezcaray

Igor Antón's GC ambitions at the Vuelta a España took a major hit today as he was distanced on the slopes of the Valdezcaray.

The cat.1 climb at the end of the 160,6km fourth stage wasn't supposed to be a decisive climb given its relative gentle ramps, and it wasn't to everyone but the Euskaltel leader as a 23-man strong select group reached the line together a minute or so behind surprise winner Simon Clarke of Orica-GreenEdge. Antón went out the back once the climbing started though and came in 30 seconds down. Hadn't it been for the excellent pace-setting of loyal domestiques Amets Txurruka and Gorka Verdugo, as well as the stalemate up ahead among the favourites, it might have been a lot more though.

The 29-year-old looked shattered upon crossing the line, a pale shadow of the Antón of 2010 he hoped to replicate in this year's edition.

"I didn't feel good", he admitted post-race at www.fundacioneuskadi.com. "The first part of the stage went well, but I think the tension in the latter part, coupled with the heat, affected me. Still, I didn't lose a lot of time, and I think I managed to save the day on a stage that turned out difficult for me. Txurruka and Verdugo did a great job on the climb, just like the rest of the team during the whole stage. There's still many stages of the Vuelta left and I didn't lose a lot, so I'll continue to stay optimistic", he said.

While him staying positive is a good thing, there aren't many positives to draw from his and the team's situation. As I touched upon yesterday, he's not looking even close to top form and he seems some way off the likes of Contador, Froome, Purito et al. His explanation, that the heat and the tension affected him, is as unconvincing as his form. It's still early days, granted, but it already looks like Antón can wave goodbye to the overall podium for another year. So much for leaving Nieve at home, huh?

Mikel Landa continued his inexplicably bad form by losing more than four minutes. On a positive note, Iván Velasco showed his form is on the up by making a brief appearance off the front on the early ramps of the Valdezcaray. He didn't get anywhere as Contador soon jumped after him, but at least he's less likely to fracture his collarbone if he's ahead of the field.

As for the GC, Antón is now 16th - already a minute down on Katusha's Purito Rodríguez.

Stage four results:
  • (1, Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge), 4:30:26)
  • 32, Amets Txurruka, 1:34
  • 33, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
  • 34, Igor Antón, s.t.
  • 47, Romain Sicard, 2:08
  • 50, Iván Velasco, 3:15
  • 59, Mikel Astarloza, 4:15
  • 61, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
  • 63, Mikel Landa, s.t.
  • 126, Rubén Pérez, 12:14
General classification:
  • (1, Joaquin Rodríguez (Katusha), 13:18:45)
  • 16, Igor Antón, 0:57
  • 24, Gorka Verdugo, 1:38
  • 25, Amets Txurruka, 1:50
  • 36, Romain Sicard, 2:53
  • 45, Mikel Astarloza, 5:00
  • 47, Iván Velasco, 5:25
  • 48, Mikel Landa, 5:27
  • 56, Juan José Oroz, 6:55
  • 117, Rubén Pérez, 19:38
Photo: Iñaki Azanza


arnout said...

Wow what a disappointment.

I'm getting annoyed by Anton. He's always telling feel good stories but his preparation is lacking, way too often. Damn shame.

Magnus said...

Couldn't agree more!

Kristof said...

Guys, to my surprise I notice I'm not the only one who's really getting annoyed. I can read some bitterness and irony through your story (Even the Velasco collarbone wink). I must say I always supported the orange team in good and bad times, but now I'm really pissed off by the team management. Four years (2009/2010/2011/2012) and Anton did one good GT (the one he crashed out in 2010). Can someone explain why still the whole team is build around him? All days the lads keep him at the front on the flat and when they climb they need to wait for him. Why on earth must Verdugo always wait? Have they ever noticed how much Verdugo has done for the team last years. I wonder if he needs to held Anton's hand when he needs to go to the toilet. Same goes for Martinez, Txurru and youngsters who always have / had to wait for him. Anton is not reliable for GC, Eus has two reliable GC riders, Samu and Nieve. One is getting 35 and the otherone is about to leave. This is going the wrong way. If nothing has been signed, open your eyes, Nieve is the future, not Anton. They should keep him, against any price (do not forget all the WT points he's got). And Vuelta 2012, get the heads together. These are all good climbers. Attack each day, watch the mentality of Martinez/Izagirre in TDF, let anyone ride his own race and you'll probably win 2 stages and have at least one top 15 rider. Or you can ride stuped as today, finishing 28th with Anton and whitout a stage win. Anton himself should be bloody honest and tell his team mates not to wait for him, admitting it's simply doesn't go (anymore). I hope he knows himself why he ride like crazy that one Vuelta while most other moments were dissappointments. This can not be anymore, working all day for a leader which always fails is getting the spirit of the lads down.

Stephen said...

Maybe he needs to look at his programe leading up to the race? How many days racing does he have this year? No Giro or TDF to keep him fresh and it doesn't seem to have worked. Maybe he needs some hard races to get him used to the pace of the top guys....or maybe the support of the team is making him soft? Three years of poor results would have him sweating on a new contract with any other team, but he's pretty much guarenteed to continue in orange. Is this the downside of the philosophy, the big fish in a small pool effect?

Stephen said...

...and yes, I know that he has been injured and that he has given us some great days but his career is starting to look like what might have been which is, as you say, a damn shame.

Magnus said...

My calculations say he's done 46 days this year. In other words not a whole lot.

And yes, I think that is the downside, Stephen. But letting him go should not be an option, so we've just got to hope he gets it right sooner or later.

And Kristof, I can agree with you on some points, especially the fact that it's risky business to build a whole GT around an Antón who's erratic at best. The team bosses should have learned by now!

I'd still like to see them ride for Antón until the first rest day though to see if he improves. After all he's not even a minute back, so still plenty to fight for!

Josh Buehner said...

At first, I knee-jerked and threw up my hands in disgust at yet another Igor flop. But upon closer inspection I think he's fine.

He looked superb on yesterday's climb. For whatever reason, Euskaltel poorly positioned him at the bottom of Arrate.

And today was a strange day. A lot of guys got knocked around in the wind, it was insanely hot. And like Magnus said, he's less than a minute back.

He may not make the podium with the stiff competition this year (I believe Froome will crack spectacularly) but he at least has some spring in his legs unlike last year. By god, he's going to make a show for us yet!


Stephen said...

It's already looking like a better race than the TdF so even if we don't get some sucess for the team we can enjoy fireworks from Contador, Val, Purito with Froom trying to control them.

The last two days have been great racing and there is plenty left.

As for Anton, I would rather see a solid top five from him than a single spectacular stage. Bilbao was magnificent but with the GT's it's the high overall that matters. There is plenty of time for him to move up so I'm not that downhearted...yet.


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