Valverde wins it fair and square against Freire in País Vasco
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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Valverde wins it fair and square against Freire in País Vasco

by Bjorn Haake at 12:19 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
 

Alejandro Valverde won the sprint in the second stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco against Oscar Freire without controversy this time. The peloton managed to neutralize a last-minute three-man move with 200m to go. Freire was perfectly placed behind Valverde, but was unable to follow Valverde's strong acceleration to the line. Mattia Gavazzi finished third.

Valverde punched his arm forward as he realized he had won. "I am very content, as yesterday I won without crossing the line first," he said. In yesterday's stage, Freire was relegated to second for unruly sprinting. There were no hard feelings as both riders shook hands after the stage.

Valverde certainly couldn't have done it without his team, which had to control several breakaways, especially in the final part of the race. "The team did a great job. Luis León Sánchez won in Sarthe, so the whole squad is going really well," a satisfied Valverde said.

There were only two men left for Valverde to eliminate a move by Linus Gerdemann and Davide Malacarne on the descent of the alto de Bargota, the final climb of the day, with eight kilometers remaining. Caisse managed to catch the duo with five kilometers left, then keep an attempt by Katusha's Eduard Vorganov under control.

For a last-minute effort by Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin), Caisse sent along one rider as a watch guard. This move was eliminated with 200 meters to go, setting up the sprint royale between Valverde and Freire.

Olympic Champion Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) finished fifth today, a small consolation price. He lost his overall chances yesterday, when he finished 38th, at 1'38 of the winner.

"We aren't machines," Sánchez said today. "It is a pity, but that is how it goes in sports," he added with a smile. He blamed some allergies for his inability to stay in the front yesterday. "Things went better today. You just have to turn the page and move on."

Discussion time

The peloton was still discussing the previous day's sprint, where Oscar Freire was relegated for leaving his line, giving Alejandro Valverde the stage and the overall lead. The peloton stayed compact over the first climb of the day, with mountain classification leader Gonzalo Rabuñal (Xacobeo Galicia) taking maximum points.

At km 25 the race livened up, with Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Alberto Benítez (Footon) taking off. The gap quickly mounted to over a minute as the three stormed up the second climb of the day, the San Cosme.

After a quarter of the distance, at km 54, the gap was already at five minutes. The wind made the race slow, but the gap kept increasing to 7'43 at km 111, the maximum the three could get.

Over the Aldea, the fourth of six climbs, Rogers did most of the pulling, but home rider Txurruka ended up sprinting for the mountain points, almost six minutes ahead of the peloton.

Rogers had also done most of the pulling on the next climb, the Aguiolar Codes and did not want to get surprised again. A few hundred meters before the top, he dropped back from the lead, then jumped hard. Benitez and Txurruka were unable to respond and had to settle for second and third, respectively. The peloton had reduced the lead to under five minutes, with 50km remaining.

Rogers kept going on the descent and had a small gap over his breakaway companions. Txurruka eventually caught up, but Benitez was left behind. Txurruka and Rogers crossed the finish line for the first time, with still 45km to go. The bunch, led by Rabobank and Caisse d'Epargne, was still five minutes behind.

But Garmin added some horsepower and even Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck could be seen on the front, so the gap was quickly halved to two and a half minutes, with 35km to go. Rogers received some advice from his directeur sportif and shortly thereafter attacked. Txurruka was unable to follow, and the Australian added to his quality training.

But he only lasted a few kilometers and was reeled in with a little less than 30km to go. It was the Saxo Bank team which had taken control of the bunch to get to Rogers - the wind and the long, fairly straight roads, did the rest.

The final kilometers were ridden very fast and all the sprinters' teams were pulling in order to make up for lost time earlier in the stage. José Ángel Gómez Marchante did one last-ditch effort on the final climb of the day, the Bargota. He managed to go over the top first, but was closely followed by Gerdemann. The acceleration splintered the peloton, but the favorites were still in the front part.

Gómez Marchante was caught, but Gerdemann stayed ahead, getting company from Malacarne. Their attempt was neutralized with 5.5 kilometers remaining. Vorganov countered immediately, but the shrunken peloton was controlled by the Caisse d'Epargne leftover, which proved to be enough.

Results stage two - 217km

1 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) 5h53'40
2 Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
3 Mattia Gavazzi (Lampre) at 0'01
4 Michael Albasini (HTC-Columbia)
5 Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
6 Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions)

Overall standings after stage two

1 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)

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