Movistar Team have proved their strong overall level at the opening stage of the 51st Vuelta al País Vasco, a typical route in the Basque tour with 151 kilometers of demanding slopes and six categorized climbs, the latter one -La Antigua (Cat. 2)- featuring slopes up to 20% gradient.
The telephone squad, always into alert all stage on the front of the bunch, made into the strongest in the final climb and is leading the teams’ overal classification after the great performance from David López (7th), Xavi Tondo (10th) and Beñat Intxausti (11th), all three entering the seven´rider group that came six seconds after the quartet led by Joaquim Rodríguez –winner and first leader-, Samuel Sánchez, Klöden and Horner, which got ahead in the closing meters of the climb. Also, Vasil Kiryienka proved to keep his good fitness level in a kind of stage not really suiting him, the Belarusian coming across the finish with a dozen riders, including Basso, Vinokourov or the Schleck brothers.
The negative note of the day was the crash by Ángel Madrazo in the downhill of the Alto de Elosua, just into the second part of the stage. The young Spaniard suffered a tremendous blow that was advised by the doctors to take him out of the race. Despite the crash causing him nausea and loss of bearings, the first checks on the climbing youngster at Zumarraga’s medical center seem to discard major injuries apart from mutiple bruises and some stitches in his right knee. He will be practised a scanner during the evening to discard any further injury.
Beñat Intxausti: “It was a really hard day, as well due to the pace as for the route and the roads. The asphalt was slippery and that makes pressure higher on everyone. We all were very nervous in the final 50k. The team was really good and we came into the right place to La Antigua, but there was way too short space to ride and, despite I overtook some riders, I got a bit boxed in the end of the climb and couldn’t bridge the front group. It’s a pity because we lost some seconds, as well myself as David and Tondo, but we showed we have a strong block and I hope we can progit from that figure superiority to play our cards. It was a bummer seeing Madrazo crashing. He was just in front of me and took a really big blow. We wish him to heal as soon as possible.”