On a day when the rain fell – yes, really – but only briefly, Egoi Martinez scored his best victory since winning the 2003 Tour de l’Avenir. Discovery Channel saw the young Spaniard switch on big-style this afternoon with a fine attacking ride.
Martinez got himself into the break of the day, along with a dozen other riders, and steadily gained time on a placid main field. Along with Martinez were sprinters Thor Hushovd (CA) and Alexandre Usov (Ag2r), and strong men Inigo Landaluze (2005 Dauphine Libere winner for Euskaltel) and the ever-active Pez diarist Dario Cioni.
Somewhere approaching half-way, Martinez decided that to stick together and tow Hushovd any further was not a good plan so he jumped away from his companions, descending the Puerto del Escudo with nary a care nor a thought for his personal safety.
It was another yawner back in the field…pedal pedal pedal get home quietly and as easily as possible.
Soon, he had pulled out a very healthy three-minute lead over his erstwhile breakaway partners, with the peloton happy to have a day off. They were meandering along at over 10 minutes back, and eventually came home a good quarter of an hour in arrears.
The only thing Alejandro Valverde had to worry about today was keeping his tires inflated.
Headbanger of the day award (which should definitely be a classification in a Grand Tour, I reckon) went to David Caсada, who flogged himself pointlessly in no-man’s land for much of the day. Having missed the break he gave chase for way too long without ever looking like catching them. Still, good to see him back in action after his wreck at the Tour de France a couple of months back.
The break was once again the place to be today if you planned on racing your bike.
At the front, Martinez looked like he was starting to suffer. The message crackling over his ear-piece that Landaluze and CSC’s Volodymir Gustov had attacked the break must have been sweet as it gave him the chance to rest up for a few kms until they caught him.
Scott Davis, Sergei Yakovlev and David Loosli (having a strong Vuelta) also had a go at getting away but they were reeled back.
Once Landaluze and Gustov had hooked up with Martinez, it was clear that they were going to decide things by themselves, and they pulled out to three minutes clear of the break again. Martinez took a backseat for a while before working which seemed to irritate the other pair, but, hey …. that’s smart racing for you.
I like to ride by myself…I like to ride by myself…keep saying it to yourself and perhaps you might believe it…
Smarter still was taking absolutely no chances, jumping with 10 kms to go, building a decisive lead and winning solo. Martinez made the move, Gustov and Landaluze hesitated and it was the end of the story.
The little Discovery rider noodled away, building his gap steadily, leaving him plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely cruise across the line arms aloft.
The win today was a well-deserved prize for the impressive Martinez.
Tomorrow is a fairly straightforward day, with one climb, and it looks ideal for those who missed the break today to give it another shot. Keep it PEZ to see if a break goes all the way, or if the sprinters win out.
Stage 11 Results
1. Egoi Martinez (Sp), Discovery Channel, 4:20:32
2. Iсigo Landaluze (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:55
3. Volodymir Gustov (Ukr), CSC, s.t.
4. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Crйdit Agricole, 3:35
5. Alexandre Usov (Blr), Ag2r Prevoyance, s.t.
6. David Loosli (Swi), Lampre, s.t.
7. Andrea Moletta (I), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
8. Theo Eltink (Hol), Rabobank, s.t.
9. Scott Davis (Aus), T-Mobile, s.t.
10. Joaquin Rodriguez (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne-I.B., s.t.
General Classification After Eleven Stages
1. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne-I.B., 45:54:45
2. Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz), Astana, at 0:27
3. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CSC, at 0:44
4. J. Angel Gomez Marchante (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 0:56
5. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), Astana, 1:38
6. Janez Brajkovic (Slo), Discovery Channel, 2:05
7. Danilo Di Luca (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, 2:21
8. Manuel Beltran (Sp), Discovery Channel, 2:28
9. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), Caisse d’Epargne-I.B., 3:02
10. Sergio Paulinho (P), Astana, 3:42