Could it be Garmin’s Sharper-looking Tyler Farrar, or Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) who went so well in the States lately? Maybe even one of the Argos-Shimano boys like Arndt? Or Sky’s Eddy Bos? This is how it panned out …
After an abstemious overnighter in the beautiful north-west of Spain, the Vuelta walked the line north out of Sober before pitching east, south, east and finally north-west into the heart of the Lake Sanabria national park. It’s goodbye to the gastronomic paradise of Galicia and hello to the wider open spaces of Castilla y Leon.
Yesterday’s hero of the Mirador de Ezaro, Nicolas Edet from Cofidis is at it again, breaking clear with Lampre’s Winner Anacona, Arnaud Courteille from FDJ, Caja Rural’s Antonia Piedra Perez and Jurgen Van De Walle from Lotto-Belisol.
After 60 kilometers of lumpy and gradually rising roads, the lead is a mammoth ten minutes plus, before Orica-GreenEdge and Garmin-Sharp stir themselves to jam the cork back in the bottle.
Anacona is first over the third-category Alto do Covelo at the eighty kilometer mark. But then the roads, and an awakening peloton, start to take their toll and the lead is tumbling to six minutes with 60 kilometers to race.
The break is still playing together nicely and as they hit 50 to go, it’s 5’24” of an advantage. Piedra leads the escape onto the Alto de Padornelo, the second and final classified climb on a day of uncategorised menace.
We’ve had a few drops of rain – nothing too catastrophic so far, but enough to chase the sun away. The climb is a long grind, ten kilometers, just like the Alto do Covelo, but it’s an even shallower gradient at about 2.5%.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep send some footsoldiers up to the bar to help with the pace-making as they have Gianni Meersman who’s got good form on a course like this. Up front, as the breakaway rolls to the summit, Edet accelerates just enough to ensure his fellow escapees can’t be bothered disrupting their rhthym enough to challenge him for the points.
Once the main field hits they top, they pour down the descent, and keep gnawing away at the lead. The peloton hits the flatter roads and hammers away – inside 16 clicks to race, and it’s now inside a minute-and-a-half. The break hits the second sprint point in Puebla de Sanabria, and they’re all out of the saddle on another false flat. Courteille takes the points but it’s more about giving it the works to stay clear. It’s still a possibility for them to fight out the stage win, but they need to keep the head and hope the peloton miscalculates a bit.
Courteille’s had enough of his friends and jumps away; there’s no immediate reaction, but Van De Walle summons up a monumental effort to get across to him with seven kilometers to ride. They’re working hard but they’re losing a second almost every hundred meters. It’s not going to happen for the escape.
Courteille and Van De Walle are caught. Now, on a slight rise, Pablo Urtasun from Euskaltel is away inside two to go but it’s a hell of an ask to stay clear now.
Argos-Shimano are snaking through the roundabout, but it’s World champion Philippe Gilbert going clear alone! By the time they hit 500 meters to go, Argos are back in control and Gilbert is swamped. The Dutch team tries to set up Nikias Arndt, but Michael ‘Bling’ Matthews bursts through and puts his head down.
Meersman and Richeze bump shoulders behind him, but it doesn’t affect the outcome. Matthews checks carefully behind him and streaks home for a first Grand Tour stage win!
From Sober in the morning to a glass or two of Cava in the evening? No doubt! Congrats to Orica-GreenEdge who did a super job today – a lot of work, and a stage win reward.
Nibali retains the red leader’s jersey on another fantastic day of racing at La Vuelta.
Keep it Pez!
Vuelta Stage 5 Result, Sober – Lago de Sanabria, 168kms
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 4hrs 28’23”
2 Max Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida
3 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
4 Nikias Arndt (Ger) Argos-Shimano
5 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling
7 Anthony Roux (Fra)
8 Greg Henderson (NZ) Lotto-Belisol
9 Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale
10 Grega Bole (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM all same time
Vuelta Overall After Stage 5
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 18hrs 43’ 52”
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard + 3”
3 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff + 8”
4 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard + 16”
5 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team + 21”
6 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard + 26”
7 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling + 28”
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha + 31”
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff + 38”
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff + 42”