Nairo Quintana, Movistar Team unscathed on Itzulia stage two as Felline (TFR) sprints to win in Vitoria-Gasteiz; 'wall' of La Antigua waiting for the peloton on Wednesday
As José Herrada continues to recover from bruises and a blow to his hip suffered with Monday’s crash during the opening stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco, the second day of the Itzulia went calm for the Movistar Team riders, again taking responsibility on the pursuit in the 175km ride from Bilbao to Vitoria-Gasteiz.
The lads directed by Arrieta and Jaimerena -Visconti and Castroviejo performing especially well, as much as Herrada himself- hit the front of the peloton into the Alto de Orduña (Cat-1) and only stropped pushing at the 50km-to-go mark, with the sprinters’ squads secturing a junction with the early, five-man move and setting up the bunch kick. Fabio Felline (TFR) narrowly beat race leader Michael Matthews (OGE) for the day’s honours.
“It was our duty to work today, something we had come focused on doing to this race – it’s out task to keep Nairo safe,” explained Movistar Team sports director José Luis Arrieta after the finish. “When we saw the gap of the escapees was up to then minutes, we considered we had to chase and also that we had the strength to do so alone, without letting the advantage grow or other teams come on rescue. We haven’t got any doubts about what Nairo can do and he’s willing to fight; looking at his victory in Tirreno, seeing that he’s doing well, he’s in good spirits, we have good weather, the rest of the team is riding at an excellent level – that combination of factors doesn’t leave us room to think we can’t do well tomorrow. We’ll give our best.”
The real ‘Itzulia’ for the climbers starts on Wednesday, with eight rated ascents en route to Zumárraga (170km) and a restless finale, over the hills of Urkillaga (Cat-2), Gabiria (Cat-3), Atagoiti (Cat-3) and the ‘wall’ of La Antigua (x2, Cat-2), 2.5km at 9.6% average, with its final top just 3km from the end of the race.
Sanz 9th in La Sarthe opener
Over at their second race of this week, the Circuit de la Sarthe, the Movistar Team worked hard with Rory Sutherland in the finale of stage one (188km from Sablé to Varades) to pursuit a three-man break -Ramírez (COL), Lemarchand (CLT), Van Rensburg (MTN)- which was only caught into the final kilometer after insistence from several squads. Alex Dowsett had tried to test his legs and join the moves in the beginning, without success.
Enrique Sanz wasn’t able either to profit from the controlling work as he finished 9h spot into the bunch sprint, convincingly won by Nacer Bouhanni (COF). The Spaniard will have two more chances, on tomorrow’s morning sector and Friday’s closing stage, with a 7km ITT in Angers on Wednesday evening set to start sorting things out in the GC. Alex Dowsett, a candidate here together with Malori and Jesús Herrada, already won over that course in 2014.