Euskaltel-Euskadi leaves it all on the Angliru
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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Euskaltel-Euskadi leaves it all on the Angliru

by Kyle Moore at 7:32 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
Basque team lights up Vuelta stage 15

Igor AntonThey have struggled with lack of form from leader Igor Anton, and gaining back time that was lost early has proved difficult, but Euskaltel-Euskadi put in a valiant effort during today’s stage fifteen of the Vuelta a España. Juan Jose Cobo (Geox-TMC) won the race to the summit finish on the Alto de l’Angliru and his Geox-TMC team was the best team of the stage, but Euskaltel-Euskadi rebounded for second.

Anton was best placed for the team, crossing the line with now-deposed overall leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling) in sixth place, 1 minute 21 seconds behind Cobo. The Basque leader has been much maligned during the Vuelta, as he has been dropped on every major climb and admitted a lack of form. The rider who has taken over as Euskaltel-Euskadi’s primary threat on the general classification, Mikel Nieve, crossed the line in a solid twelfth place, 2 minutes 2 seconds behind the winner. And Amets Txurruka rounded out the top twenty on the stage, 3 minutes 22 seconds in arrears.

For Anton, it was his best day on the bike so far in the Spanish Grand Tour. “It was the first day of the Vuelta that I enjoyed,” he admitted after the stage. “I’m happy with my performance. I have not given up. I attacked in search of a victory, but it wasn’t to be.”

It was the first time that Anton showed flashes of the form he had in last year’s Vuelta, when he held the leader’s jersey before crashing out. When the Angliru ramped up toward 20 percent gradients, Anton moved past a break that included Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervelo), Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar), and Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC). He was alone for a kilometer or two before Cobo made his move, and quickly left Anton and the rest behind.

“I knew it would be very difficult because I know there are people who are stronger than me, but I tried with all my strength,” Anton said. “I’ve been waiting for this stage for a couple days, and I gave it everything.”

“I am missing something, yet the motivation was high. I gave it everything and I enjoyed the steep slopes of the Angliru.”

Nieve is having another consistently solid Grand Tour for his Basque team, and survived the Angliru climb in decent position, despite some fatigue. “Maybe I paid for the efforts of Ponferrada and Farrapona,” he remarked about his work of the past two days. “In those stages, we moved quickly. We risked a lot today, and I was a little behind what I expected.”

After losing contact early on the climb, Nieve settled in by himself, and still managed to cross the line before noted riders Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).

“When I found that I was going okay, I found my own rhythm and dragged myself to the top. It was a way to minimize time loss,” Nieve explained.

“The result of these three mountain stages is very positive. I have made a jump in the general classification, I made time on the leaders, and now I’m near the top ten. Three days ago I was two minutes [further behind] and in 24th.”

Though they struggled in the early portions of the race, Euskaltel-Euskadi riders like Nieve are ready to be proud of their efforts. “The team’s performance has been very good during these last three days, and we’ve been very combative,” he stated.

The race’s second rest day takes place tomorrow but he’ll hope that upwards momentum continues between now and the big finale in Madrid next Sunday.


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