Ruta del Sol: Hivert wins second stage, RadioShack's Irizar takes control of the overall
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Monday, February 21, 2011

Ruta del Sol: Hivert wins second stage, RadioShack's Irizar takes control of the overall

by Bjorn Haake at 1:44 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
Previous leader Engoulvent loses over 20 minutes on tough stage in southern Spain

Jonathan HivertJonathan Hivert (Saur-Sojasun) sprinted to victory in the second stage of the Ruta del Sol, out of a group of around forty riders. The terrain on the second stage over 161km from Almunñecar to Adra was too tough for many. Ten more riders were within two minutes, the rest of the peloton finished more than 15 minutes behind.

Prologue runner-up Markel Irizar (RadioShack) took over the red leader's jersey, one second ahead of Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and two seconds ahead of Irizar's teammate Levi Leipheimer. Rabobank's Oscar Freire showed good early season form, making the front group. He came in third, just behind Francisco Ventoso (Movistar).

The French Saur-Sojasun team continued its good run at the Ruta del Sol. Despite Jimmy Engoulvent losing the overall lead, a stage win and the fourth place in GC by Jerome Coppel - just three seconds down - leaves the team happy. "We have a blast here at the Ruta del Sol," said stage winner Hivert at the finish. He added that this statement primarily reflected the results. "I had had it in the climbs. They were really tough." He joked that he was ready to get picked up on the side of the road. "But I managed to hang on. I knew that if I could get back to the front group, there wouldn't be a lot of sprinters left and without a doubt I'd be one of the fastest."

His prediction was right on the money, with Ventoso offering a strong challenge. Hivert managed to win by about half a wheel length. "I really like those kinds of sprints - a bit tortuous, with a chicane in the final meters." Hivert's last win was the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise in January of 2010. "Now, I don't win a whole lot, but that's enough. Certainly if I'd do 20 sprints with Freire, I'd lose 19 times..."

Another happy team was RadioShack, who had three riders in the top ten after the prologue. Second-placed Irizar was the one who reaped in the benefits from the team's work. "It's nice to be in the lead," said Irizar. "Especially after such a hard stage, with three climbs and 3300m (10824ft) of climbing. I suffered a lot, but it was worth suffering for it." The team worked hard for the Spaniard. "Muravyev, Rovny and Zubeldia stayed with me the whole day. They motivated me constantly and helped me to come back after that terrible climb."

The peloton had splintered even before the 20km long hors-category climb up the Puerto de Polopos. A five-man break had an eight-minute gap on the Irizar group, crucially not containing red jersey Jimmy Engoulvent. In between the two, there was a group that contained fourth-placed Levi Leipheimer.

This gave RadioShack good tactical options. "It was important for us to have Levi in the front too," explained Team Director Viatcheslav Ekimov. "Levi was fourth in the GC, at only two seconds of Engoulvent." Levi had teammate Jani Brajkovic in the group and neither had to work. "They could wait for the return of the group with Irizar. Our team did a fabulous chasing job the whole day."

When the groups merged, the racing continued to be tough. "Even in the end, when the leaders were caught, there were constant attacks. We defended till the end that virtual red jersey. With success," Ekimov said.

It was Irizar's second victory in seven years of professional cycling. Last year he won the 22km time trial in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes. Like Lance Armstrong, Markel Irizar is a testicular cancer survivor (2002).

It was a long day in the saddle for Irizar, but he feared the night could get even longer. "I think we will celebrate this jersey tonight. For sure, we will do that my way, I will have to give a speech. I don't understand why, but the team likes that. There is only one problem: when I start talking, I never stop talking and we will need to save some energy for the coming days."

He is motivated to hang onto the lead for as long as possible. "For sure I will fight to keep this jersey. It is important for Team RadioShack in the beginning of the season."

The sports director is realistic about the difficult task at hand. "It will be hard," said Ekimov. "Many riders are within a few seconds for the overall classification. Tomorrow, we have again a stage with a lot of up and downs and then we have two flatter stages where the wind can play a key role."

One thing will favor Irizar. "There are no bonification seconds at the finish line," Ekimov said. "It will be 'just' the job of the teammates to keep Markel in the front. Hard, but not impossible at all."

Five men on the run

After an active start to the race, five men went clear after 27km. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil), David De la Cruz (Caja Rural), Javier Ramírez Abeja (Andalucía-Caja Granada), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Aritz Etxebarria (Orbea) quickly built a lead of around eight minutes.

A group of 20 started the chase, without race leader Engoulvent being present. The gap reduced to four and a half minutes by km 54. Ramírez Abeja was first over the Puerto de Polopos (km 61), ahead of De la Cruz and Sicard, with the chasers at 2'30.

Ramírez Abeja then went solo, clearing the Puerto de Albañol (km 96), 1'56 ahead of Mercato and three minutes ahead of the main group, which had swallowed the three other break riders.

Fabio Duarte joined Ramírez Abeja, then dropped him and was ahead at the Alto de Berja (km 129) by 1'52. At the end of the day, Ramírez Abeja would at least take over the KOM competition, with 26 points, ahead of Duarte (13 points). With 20km left to race, RadioShack and Rabobank started to pull hard, bringing back Duarte five kilometers from the line. Final break efforts were stopped by the attentive group.

Results stage two

1   HIVERT, Jonathan SAU 4h20'25"
2  VENTOSO, Francisco MOV st
3 FREIRE, Óscar RAB st
4  DEVOLDER, Stijn VCD st
5  IVANOV, Serguei KAT st
7  COBO ACEBO, Juan José GEO st
8  VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen OLO st
9 BENÍTEZ, Alberto ACG st
10 KNEES, Christian SKY st
11 FROOME, Christopher SKY st
12 MARCATO, Marco VCD st
13 KONIG, Leopold APP st
14 DURAN, Arkaitz GEO st
15 HUZARSKI, Bartosz APP st

GC after stage two

1 IRIZAR ARAMBURU, Markel RSH 4h29'53"
2 VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen OLO a 01"
3 LEIPHEIMER, Levi RSH a 02"
4 COPPEL, Jerome SAU a 03"
5 PASAMONTES, Luis MOV a 08"
6 LÖVKVIST, Thomas SKY a 08"
7 URAN, Rigoberto SKY a 09"
8 ROVNY, Ivan RSH a 10"
9 INTXAUSTI, Beñat MOV a 10"
10 ZUBELDIA, Haimar RSH a 12"
11 ZANDIO ECHAIDE, Xabier SKY a 13"
12 SÁNCHEZ, Samuel EUS a 16"
13 KONIG, Leopold APP a 18"
14 VENTOSO, Francisco MOV a 18"
15 FROOME, Christopher SKY a 20"


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