The mountains were on the menu in Tuesday's third leg of the Challenge Mallorca, but Galdeano's disciples were once again forced to settle for intent instead of results in the Trofeo Tramuntana.
Racing in the mountains of Tramuntana on Mallorca's northwestern coast is always a challenge for a peloton just getting back to racing, and today's race was no exception with the inclusion of, among other climbs, the Alto de Sóller and, above all, Mallorca's most mythical one: the steady but arduous Puig Major.
The terrain was like made for Euskaltel and Euskadi's aggressive and lightweight riders, and the former team duly got their man in the break. Gorka Izagirre eventually made it into the decisive nine-man group that animated the day's racing, but, once the big names jumped off the front on the mighty Puig Major, all hope was out for the breakaway.
Movistar duo Valverde and Rui Costa, along with Sky's diminutive Colombian Henao and Blanco's Gesink, quickly caught and passed Izagirre and co. and built a decent lead over the remnants of the pack.
Euskaltel's top man was Mikel Landa, and the youngster was only 20 seconds down on the leading riders at the summit.
The chase was everything but concerted, though, and the quartet went on to fight it out for the win among them. Valverde unsurprisingly came out tops, while a small group, including Landa in 15th, came in 1:15 in arrears.
Igor Antón had an easy day in the mountains and came in more than six minutes back, while Equipo Euskadi had an anonymous performance after the heroics on the first pair of stages. Mikel Bizkarra was their top rider in 60th, ten minutes down.
The bad news of the day was Juan José Oroz's crash. The veteran all-rounder allegedly hit a stone and then the tarmac, but he still managed to get up and finish the stage. According to the team, he should be fit to race tomorrow's fourth and concluding race.
Results (full results here):
- (1, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 4:04:57)
- 15, Mikel Landa (Euskaltel Euskadi), 1:15
- 33, Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel Euskadi), 2:33
- 37, Igor Antón (Euskaltel Euskadi), 6:41
- 38, Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
- 55, Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel Euskadi), 9:59
- 60, Mikel Bizkarra (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
- 69, Mikel Iturria (Equipo Euskadi), 12:48
- 70, Miguel Minguez (Euskaltel Euskadi), s.t.
- 72, Haritz Orbe (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
- 74, Igor Merino (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
- 94, Juan José Oroz (Euskaltel Euskadi), 12:55
- 102, Aritz Bagües (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
- 115, Mikel Aristi (Equipo Euskadi), 21:50
- 124, Carlos Barbero (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
- 125, Jon Larrinaga (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
- 149, Illart Zuazubiskar (Equipo Euskadi), 27:40
- 150, Unai Iparragirre (Equipo Euskadi), s.t.
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi