Euskaltel have nearly wrapped up a great start to the season after Ion Izagirre finished 4th on the queen stage on Old Willunga Hill at the Santos Tour Down Under while brother Gorka finished 7th. Neither were able to match the accelerations of stage winner Simon Gerrans and new overall leader Tom-Jelte Slagter but were able to keep up with the main pack and in Ion's case, distancing the pack to grab precious seconds on the overall leader board. If both maintain their overall positions, Euskaltel will be able to score 90 precious World Tour points, nearly 20% of their total haul last year.
The peloton began the stage with a lively start out of McLaren Vale with multiple attacks being launched and brought back by an attentive peloton. Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil) was a main driver in initiating a breakaway as he took to the front multiple times. After De Gendt attacked with his teammate Tomas Marczynski, a group of 6 riders bridged and the break was formed. The pace was lively on the 3 flat circuits as the break was cooperating well with each other as the gap extended to 4'30". At the beginning of the 3rd circuit, the SKY-led peloton began to up the pace; bearing down on the breakaway as they began to near the first loop of Old Willunga Hill. The break was caught early on the ascent while a group of 4, including 2 Movistar riders, was able to gain an advantage.
On the approach to the final ascent of Willunga Hill, SKY and Orica-GreenEdge ramped up the pace as the peloton turned onto the climb and absorbed the breakaway. Attacks were launched as the road went upward, including by Tiago Machado (RadioShack), as SKY continued to lead the peloton, insistent on protecting Geraint Thomas' ochre leader's jersey. As the 2km flag was passed, Javier Moreno (Movistar) launched his attack and bridged to the small breakaway; taking to the front as he was only 6 seconds down on the overall classification. In the peloton, Simon Gerrans (OGE) launched an impressive attack, which Gorka Izagirre attempted futilely to follow, and brought him to to wheel of Moreno. As Gerrans and Moreno were in sight, Ion Izagirre attempted to distance the peloton but was out done by Tom-Jelte Slagter, who exploded out of the group and up to Gerrans. The duo were able to create a large gap with the latter taking the stage win.
Ion's move was not all-for-naught as he took 4 seconds out of the main bunch and 4th on the stage, good for 1 World Tour point. Ion now sits in 4th place on G.C., 28" behind Slagter and only 1" ahead of Geraint Thomas in 5th. Gorka was able to grab 7th on the stage but slipped two spots on the overall classification to 7th, 32" behind Slagter.
- 1. (Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) 3:36'25")
- 4. Ion Izagirre +12"
- 7. Gorka Izagirre +16"
- 25. Juan José Oroz +43"
- 43. Garikoitz Bravo +1'36"
- 85. Mikel Astarloza +7'49"
- 119. Juan José Lobato +12'49"
- 120. Jon Aberasturi s.t.
Tomorrow is the final stage of the Santos Tour Down Under with a circuit race around Adelaide, which will be the final chance for sprinter Juan José Lobato. Ion will have to be attentive to both Geraint Thomas (SKY) and Tiago Machado (RadioShack) as either is only one second back on GC and could pass him if they attempted to go for any bonus seconds. If the overall remains status quo, Euskaltel will be very happy with the effort in Australia.