Giro d’Italia: Euskaltel-Euskadi finishes solid race on the attack
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Giro d’Italia: Euskaltel-Euskadi finishes solid race on the attack

by Kyle Moore at 3:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
Unheralded squad gets a stage win, Nieve cracks the top ten

Mikel NieveAs a team almost strictly composed of riders specializing in mountainous terrain, Euskaltel-Euskadi often catches a lot of grief when they do not perform well in their element. But in this year’s Giro d’Italia, the Basque squad has quietly put together a solid race.

Team leader Mikel Nieve went on the attack during the tortuous stage 20, coming across the line third behind stage winner Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) and runner up Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD). More importantly, Nieve cracked the top ten in the general classification, and seems poised to be able to hold onto it after the Sunday time trial in Milan.

Nieve currently sits ninth, nearly a minute ahead of John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) and almost 90 seconds ahead of Sergio Henao (Sky Procycling). Gadret and Henao are the only two riders within striking distance of Nieve, and neither is considered a specialist against the watch.

On stage 20 and the summit finish of the Stelvio, Nieve went away with De Gendt, and initially appeared as strong as the Belgian. To set up the duel, Nieve attacked the peloton in similar style as De Gendt, using the 20km of rolling terrain leading into the Stelvio to get away. Nieve used team-mate Jon Izaguirre for all he was worth, as Izagirre paced him up to the lead group.

Once they had made it, the Euskaltel-Euskadi duo worked with De Gendt to consolidate their lead on the shrinking main bunch as the Stelvio approached.

“The first thing I have to do is acknowledge the work of Jon. He has been incredible and I am very grateful,” Nieve said after Saturday’s stage.

Izagirre won a stage earlier in the Giro, when he took stage 16 to Falzes out of a breakaway. It was his first Grand Tour stage win and his second win of the year after picking up the time trial stage of the Vuelta a Asturias.

“In general, the whole team has done a great job during the Giro, I think it must be stressed,” Nieve continued. “We have fought every day, and [on Saturday] we took a risky step, to try and get into the top ten overall.”

In spite of his third place finish at the top of the Stelvio, Nieve indicated that on a better day, his result may have been different.

“I was missing a bit. On a different day, I would have been closer to De Gendt and Cunego, and today I wasn’t, so I can’t be as satisfied as I would have been. We were risky, we have given it our all, and we managed to climb in the standings. We’ll see after the time trial tomorrow,” Nieve said.


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