4/4/2013 - NEWS!
Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco 2013
Henao takes second to retain overall lead
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won the rain-hit stage four of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco from Trapagaran to Eibar with Sergio Henao (Team Sky) finishing a close second and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) in third on the climb to the finish in the Basque hills.
Henao retained his overall lead in the race although Quintana clipped off two seconds to reduce the gap to six seconds. Richie Porte (Team Sky) remains in third, 10 seconds off yellow.
The Colombian slipped clear of a select group on the brief descent to the finish line, using his descending skills to distance a group of six riders who broke clear on the final climb of the stage.
Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) both lost time, with Talansky crashing after crossing the finish line, like Peraud did a few seconds before him. Neither were hurt.
"It's a very important win for me because this is one of the biggest races in the WorldTour," said Quintana. "It's a massive joy for me and a huge boost of confidence for the future, because this climb has such a rich history, and the weather conditions all day, with cold and rain, make it really special.
"I knew the finale, because we went on a recon and we saw that the final meters were the key for the result. I took chances there and it paid off."
Despite the rainy conditions a breakaway group went clear in the first part of the race with Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Daniele Ratto (Cannondale), Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale) establishing a lead over five minutes. With Velits just 1:49 down overall, Team Sky was forced into action and with two climbs to go they looked to be struggling to keep the Omega man in check.
With 28km to go the leaders still had 4:50 although they had been reduced to three with Velits and Montaguti keeping company with a tiring Ratto.
On the penultimate climb with a 5.2% average, Movistar moved to the front to set up Quintana. The pace increase was enough to burn off Team Sky’s Joe Dombrowski who had been working hard, with the trio’s lead down to 2:48. The Spanish team had both the stage and the overall on their mind and Henao looked isolated with just Richie Porte for company after Vasil Kiryienka overshot a corner.
On the lower slopes of the final climb Ratto was the first to succumb to the gradient as Movistar looked to thin down the list of contenders behind. The bunch lined out, and one by one riders began to slip backwards and lose time.
José Herrada (Movistar), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) and Simon Spilak (Katusha) had other ideas. Herrada instigated the move in a bid to draw out Porte and weaken Henao’s allies and it looked to be working when the Australian moved up to the front of the reduced peloton.
Velits and Montaguti were by now pedalling squares and they were duly caught and dispatched inside the five kilometre mark as a determined Spilak built up a 27-second lead with 4.5km to go. With the Slovenian 10 seconds off yellow Henao couldn’t afford to wait and he and Porte traded turns, with an attentive Contador in close quarters.
Spilak’s lead crumbled to 12 seconds as the chasers upped the pace, with the group reduced to Porte, Contador, Henao and Quintana, with Ag2r-La Mondiale's Jean-Christophe Peraud and Carlos Betancur hanging on for dear life. As the road flattened out at the summit Spilak was caught and the short descent to the finish began.
It was all about nerve and determination on the slippery roads. Quintana had both and edged away to win and show he is also a major contender for overall victory.
Read more on: Cyclingnews.com
Photo: © Bettini