Stage 2 and another day in the mountains. The good news? Well at least the weather’s good!
With 45 kms to ride the peloton was following a breakaway group, descending a sweeping, wide and sun-flooded road from Berastegi. The boys of Garmin-Cervelo had the front and were enjoying the pace setting. The breakaway, including Moinard (BMC) and Iglinskiy (AST) had a 51s lead. RadioShack’s riders were buried in the body of the peloton.
The Alto De Leaburu was the second last ascent of the day and as the climb started after a left-hand hairpin the pace slowed but by no means slackened. The peloton lost second after second as the climb went up. A kilometre into the mountain and the gap slumped to 18s. And then came an attack from Rabobank’s Barredo, who was joined by Iglinskiy (AST).
With 25 kms to the line and the climb of Alto de Azpiroz ahead the pace continued to be driven on by Garmin who had everyone firmly back together. Massing behind them were Astana and Katusha. The average speed hit and stayed at 50 kph. Team RadioShack started to make their presence known as the kilometres of the day were eaten up, leaving just 15 to ride. Hitting the Azpiroz climb RadioShack moved around the peloton and improved their position in the peloton; they seemed to have a plan. Chris Horner was one of the three RadioShackers just hanging off the front of the pack, marking the pace and observing the tactics.
The incline steepened and Duarte (GEO) pulled away from the peloton building a 300 metre advantage. There was no immediate chase but Frank Schlek (LEO) chanced to close the gap, followed by Horner. Others joined the pair whilst Kloden led the peloton before steadily pulling away from it. Topping out of the climb the group of chasers spread across the road before dropping into the descent. Vinokourov (AST) started an attack but Kiryienka (MOV) was in no mood to let the race be dictated by anyone but himself. Taking Vinokourov on he established a good lead and was still in front with 1 km to go.
The chase including Horner charged but Kiryienka had timed his attack to perfection, having moments to sit up, zip his jersey and raise his arms as he won the stage. Closing fast Kloden, standing up and steeping out from behind Frank Schlek, took second place and Horner took 5th.
No photo finish today but another good day for RadioShack with the strongest riders being Kloden and Horner. With two stages complete and Kloden working alongside Horner so effectively the question for the RadioShack team bus will be “Is this a race for Chris Horner to win again or for Andreas Kloden to take?” No matter the answer RadioShack will need to be on heightened alert on the flatter Stage 3 and plan carefully for Stages 4 & 5 which are back in the mountains. The last day is a time trial. It would be unwise to leave decisive race planning until then.
GC results after Stage 2, from the official Vuelta al País Vasco website:
1º KLÖDEN, Andreas GER RSH 8:09:23
2º RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin ESP KAT S.T.
3º SÃNCHEZ, Samuel ESP EUS S.T.
4º HORNER, Christopher USA RSH +1 sec
5º HESJEDAL, Ryder CAN GRM +6 sec
6º LOPEZ, David ESP MOV +6 sec
7º CUNEGO, Damiano ITA LAM +6 sec
8º TONDO, Xavier ESP MOV +6 sec
9º GESINK, Robert NED RAB +6 sec
10º INTXAUSTI, Beñat ESP MOV +9 sec
All RadioShack GC places
1º KLÖDEN, Andreas GER RSH 08:09:23
4º HORNER, Christopher USA RSH a 1
48º BUSCHE, Matthew USA RSH a 3:10
58º ROVNY, Ivan RUS RSH a 6:06
63º IRIZAR, Markel ESP RSH a 6:36
72º PAULINHO, Sergio POR RSH a 8:34
102º LEIPHEIMER, Levi USA RSH a 19:35
By Julian Winn, staff writer