Pablo Urtasun lived up to his billing as one of the pre-race favourites by taking second in today's Vuelta a La Rioja.
The 32-year-old grabbed third in the Vuelta a Castilla y León a few days back and so nearly went two better in the 1.1-ranked race. Well, 'nearly' hardly reflects how the race unfolded and just how strong winner Evgeny Shalunov was. After numerous attacks that petered out one after another, including the likes of Landa, Txurruka, Minguez and Urtasun himself, the Lokosphinx rider took off in company of countryman and Caja Rural rider Alexander Ryabkyn with some 50 kilometres to go. Behind them, a select group, including, at one time, six Euskaltel representatives and five from Movistar, formed. Incredibly though, this select group was never able to catch the plucky and, to the general public at least, unknown duo. All the responsibility were left to Euskaltel as Movistar and Caja Rural neglected to cooperate, and just how they failed to control the Russians is beyond me.
Shalunov left his compatriot with some 25 clicks to go and never looked back, eventually winning solo ahead of Urtasun in third half a minute down. Iván Velasco showed his top form is coming along right in time for the Giro d'Italia with 10th in the last tune-up ahead of the Italian GT, while Landa was once again up there in seventh. The remaining riders all finished several minutes back as they paid the price for trying to catch the eventual winner all by themselves.
Speaking post-race, Urtasun reflected on a win that got away.
"I'm left with the same sensations as I had after Castilla y León: a mixture of happiness and grief. I had the legs to triumph, but I couldn't pull it off. The chance of winning doesn't come along too often, but I still accumulated 90 points towards the UCI's Europe ranking this week. Let's see if we can get the win we've been working so hard for in the Vuelta a Asturias", he told www.fundacioneuskadi.com.
- 1, Evgeny Shalunov, Lokosphinx
- 2, Pablo Urtasun, 0:28
- 3, Mikhail Antonov (Lokosphinx), s.t.
- 7, Mikel Landa, 0:54
- 10, Iván Velasco, 0:54
- 37, Amets Txurruka, 6:25
- 45, Miguel Mínguez, 11:56
- 47, Adrián Sáez, s.t.
- 55, Ricardo García, 16:32
- 56, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
Full results here.