Team RadioShack’s Andreas Klöden (GER) stepped up on the podium in the town of Lekunberri at the end of the 2nd stage of the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco, Tour of Basque Country and donned the leader’s yellow jersey after a smart, safe ride through the Pyrénées mountains of northeastern Spain. He’d been visible all day, along with TRS’s Chris Horner, at the front of the pack marking the other leaders and staying out of trouble and then placed himself in very good position at the line to outsprint Leopard-Trek’s Andy Schleck (LUX) to take 2nd on the stage and 1st on the overall general classification.
Today’s 163-kilometer 2nd stage was another up and down trek in the very steep Pyrénées Mountains of Basque Country which included 7 categorized climbs; 3 category threes, 2 cat twos, and 2 cat ones. The race began where it finished yesterday in Zumarraga and went slightly south, mostly east to Lekunberri in the Navarre Province.
A break lead out during the race, but they were caught relatively early at about 26-kilometers from the finish due in large part to the work at the front by a huge squad of 6 Garmin-Cervélo riders, who drilled the speed up to 50 kmh. Garmin obviously wanted to dictate the flow coming into the final climb of the day and kept up the brutal leg-burning pace right up to the base of the category 1 Alto de Azpiroz, a good 8.5% average grade of about 7 kilometer’s length.
Their strategy was beyond most, but it did serve to keep any of the dangerous climbers from attempting to blast away from a bunch maintaining such speed. A fairly good-sized pack of quality riders made the top of the climb together, and so the day’s contest really got started on the 3-kilometer descent to the finish.
Somehow, Movistar seemed to have their whole team at the front and their Vasili Kiryienka (BLR) made a good move at about 2 km to the finish with some 5 riders, but managed to distance himself from them and accelerated ahead at the end, where a large bunch of trailing riders came flashing by, lead by Klöden.
Stage 2 Results
1. KIRYIENKA, Vasili (BLR) Movistar 4:06.40
2. KLODEN, Andreas (GER) RadioShack +2
3. SCHLECK, Andy (LUX) Leopard-Trek +2
4. SORENSEN, Chris (DEN) Saxo Bank +2
5. HORNER, Chris (USA) RadioShack +2
6. VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen (BEL) Omega-Lotto +2
7. HESJEDAL, Ryder (CAN) Garmin-Cervélo +2
8. DUARTE, Fabio (COL) Geox-TMC +2
9. RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin (ESP) Katusha +2
With no time bonuses given for stage wins or placements, the time gaps remain very close among the top riders and will likely keep this race a nail-biter. Tomorrow’s stage is a little less dramatically steep, and not too likely to be decisive. If there is a day to watch for fireworks, it will probably come on Thursday with the category 1 Alto de Uzartza right near the finish which will surely cause some pain and time gaps. Absent that, it could come right down to Saturday’s 24-km individual time trial in Zalla. Klöden and Horner are well positioned and both can ride a very fast TT. They may have to, to pull away from such a tightly bunched group of high-quality cyclists.
RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer continues to recover from a serious stomach ailment and keeps soldering on in the hopes of helping Klöden or Horner to victory. We wish him well.
1. KLÖDEN, Andreas (GER) RadioShack 8:09.23
2. RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin (ESP) Katusha 0
3. SÃNCHEZ, Samuel (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0
4. HORNER, Chris (USA) RadioShack +1
5. HESJEDAL, Ryder (CAN) Garmin-Cervélo +6
6. LOPEZ, David (ESP) Movistar +6
7. CUNEGO, Damiano (ITL) Lampre-ISD +6
8. TONDO, Xavier (ESP) Movistar +6
9. GESINK, Robert (NED) Rabobank +6
10. INTXAUSTI, Beñat (ESP) Movistar +9
By George Hurst , staff writer