Euskaltel's star trio finally looked like something reminiscent of their old selfs on Sunday's brutally steep finish in Valdepeñas de Jaén.
After what's been a decidedly below-par Vuelta a España up until the weekend, Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón and Mikel Nieve all looked among the strongest on the ninth stage. The former came in an encouraging fifth, Antón ended up 10th, and Nieve came in a close 14th.
No one were even close to challenging the superior Daniel Moreno, but Euskaltel did come away with the team prize on the day. Heading into the last two weeks, the team looks very much capable of grabbing a stage win at least.
While loftier targets might have been set pre-race, a stage win at this moment in time would be memorable.
- (1, Daniel Moreno (Katusha), 4:18:57)
- 5, Samuel Sánchez, 0:08
- 10, Igor Antón, 0:15
- 14, Mikel Nieve, 0:18
- 66, Juan José Oroz, 1:45
- 67, Jorge Azanza, 1:49
- 82, Egoi Martínez, 2:35
- 83, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
- 136, Mikel Landa, 16:19
- 185, Pablo Urtasun, 16:29
Over in France at the GP Plouay, the orange squad had a rather more discreet showing.
The team's main hope, Juan José Lobato, pulled out and left the team without any real alternative for the sprint finish eventually taken out by a seemingly revived Filippo Pozzato.
Five of the Euskaltel riders made it in with the main pack, the best of whom were Romain Sicard in 47th.
- (1, Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), 5:59:54)
- 47, Romain Sicard, s.t.
- 51, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
- 57, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
- 64, Gorka Izagirre, s.t.
- 68, Ion Izagirre, s.t.
- 82, Mikel Astarloza, 1:10