Team RadioShack’s Andreas Klöden (GER) and Chris Horner (USA) finished off a great week of racing in warm and sunny Spain with powerful time trial performances that set them at the top of the general classification after the concluding 6th stage of the Tour of Basque Country today. Klöden fell just shy of winning the stage, only 5 seconds off the pace, but he did enough damage with his performance to completely crack the leader board, which till this day had been tightly bunched. Going into the day the top 3 riders were in a dead heat, and the entire top-ten were only 10 seconds apart. Coming out of the day, Klöden was 47 seconds up on his teammate, Chris, and the scrambled GC top-ten, now separated by almost 2 minutes, looked quite different.
The 24-kilometer course in Zalla, Spain was hilly and caused some to struggle up the front half. HTC-Highroad’s Tony Martin (GER) made the best intermediate time of 19:32 at the 12-km mark way early in the day (he was 20th out of the gate), and finished with a time of 32:15, averaging nearly 44 kmh. He then had to wait through 114 riders to see if someone could beat him. No one really came close until Klöden jumped down the ramp. He looked really comfortable on the bike and very fast and sure enough his intermediate time was the only one faster than Martin’s, by 7 seconds. At that point one sensed that Klodi had won the stage and the overall race. But he didn’t hold the speed on the back half and settled for second on the ITT, knowing that Martin was well back on the GC and posed no threat for the final podium.
Klöden also ended up winning the points jersey to go along with his winner’s jersey beating Samuel Sanchez and Chris Horner by some 20 points. HTC-Highroad’s Michael Albasini (SUI) easily won the mountain’s classification, with several gutsy performances in the picturesque and steep Pyrénées throughout the week. Rabobank’s Bram Tankink (NED) won the sprints classification and Movistar, who seemed to be everywhere during this 51st edition of the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco, just beat out Team RadioShack for the Teams Classification. It’s no wonder, given that this Spanish-based team finished with 4 riders in the top-ten, quite a performance.
So this year’s addition of the Basque Tour is in the record books and once again a Team RadioShack rider goes home with the floppy ‘Txapela’ beret for their efforts. Chris just missed as the repeat champion here and both he and Klöden look very good so far this season. In fact Klöden is having his best early season in memory. Sure it’s way too early to predict a Grand Tour placing, and you certainly don’t want to jinx things, but no one should forget that Klodi came in 2nd at the Tour de France twice now and finished 6th, and 14th in his last two efforts. This summer in France, it may not be just the Andy and Alberto show. I kind of like the thought of the initials AK, AS and AC commanding some headlines come July.
Stage 6 Time Trial Results
1. MARTIN, Tony (GER) HTC-Highroad 32:16:
2. KLODEN, Andreas (GER) RadioShack +9
3. PNOTTI, Marco (ITA) HTC-Highroad +24
4. FUGLSANG, Jakob (DEN) Leopard-Trek +29
5. TALANSKY, Andrew (USA) Garmin-Cervélo +42
6. MONFORT, Maxime (BEL) Leopard-Trek +48
7. GESINK, Robert (NED) Rabobank +50
8. PORTE, Richie (AUS) Saxo Bank Sungard +53
9. HORNER, Christopher (USA) RadioShack +55
10. KIRYIENKA, Vasili (BLR) Movistar +1:00
Final General Classification Results
1. KLODEN, Andreas (GER) RadioShack 22:12:11
2. HORNER, Christopher (USA) RadioShack +47
3. GESINK, Robert (NED) Rabobank +47
4. INTXAUSTI, Beñat (ES) Movistar +1:03
5. TONDO, Xavier (ESP) Movistar +1:03
6. SANCHEZ, Samuel (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi +1:08
7. LOPEZ, David (ESP) Movistar +1:28
8. VINOKOUROV, Alexandre (KAZ) Astana +1:31
9. HESJEDAL, Ryder (CAN) Garmin-Cervélo +1:49
10. KIRYIENKA, Vasili (BLR) Movistar +1:54
By George Hurst, staff writer