Pablo Urtasun once again showed excellent form in today's Vuelta a Asturias opener, but once again missed out on the win.
The 34-year-old placed second on the 162km stage from Oviedo to Gijón after unknown Spaniard Alejandro Marque sensationally took his maiden career win by attacking his breakaway companions 40 kilometres from the line and soloing in half a minute ahead of a rather inattentive peloton. Euskaltel, with the number one favourite for the stage in their ranks, inexplicably only helped out Movistar at the head of the pack with some 17 clicks to go. And by then it was too late. The Carmin-Prio rider, who's spent his entire career at lower-level Spanish and Portuguese outfits, was not to be caught after managing to keep up a decent rhythm on the last climb of the day, the cat.2 San Martín de Huerces. The 31-year-old from Vigo only held a one minute advantage with 14 kilometres to go, but Euskaltel and Movistar somehow managed to eat up only half of that gap.
Another chance for a much-needed win thus went missing, adding to Urtasun's recent run of near-misses. The Euskaltel hardman finished second in Rioja last week after young Russian Shalunov was allowed to sneak away with the victory, while bad luck prevented Urtasun from making two third places in Castilla y León into two wins a few days prior. Though Urtasun will no doubt feel a little blue about his recent missed opportunities, he can console himself with the fact that there's still everything to play for tomorrow and on Sunday
Amets Txurruka looked recovered from his bout of bronchitis, staying with the select 22-man chase group to keep his options of a good overall placing open.
As for Orbea, it was an altogether different day. Illart Zuazubiskar showed his aggressive side by forming part of the eventual winning break, but had no answer when Marque upped the pace. Sadly for the blue team, none of its riders managed to stay with the first pack and thus lost all hope of a top GC placing.
There were reportedly quite a few crashes today, but none from Euskaltel or Orbea are reported to be injured.
Stage results (Orbea riders in cursive):
- (1, Alejandro Marque (Carmin-Prio), 4:03:21)
- 2, Pablo Urtasun, 0:29
- 13, Miguel Minguez, s.t.
- 15, Victor Cabedo, s.t.
- 16, Jon Izagirre, s.t.
- 17, Peio Bilbao, s.t.
- 19, Amets Txurruka, s.t.
- 28, Pierre Cazaux, 1:26
- 30, Adrián Sáez, s.t.
- 34, Igor Merino, s.t.
- 44, Omar Fraile, 3:32
- 57, Mikel Bizkarra, s.t.
- 70, Xabier Zabalo, 6:16
- 80, Haritz Orbe, 8:43
- 93, Illart Zuazubiskar, 13:40
- 106, Aritz Bagües, s.t.
- 113, Aritz Etxebarria, s.t.