Eleven years after winning his first Vuelta al País Vasco, Andreas Klöden took his second victory on Saturday after a week of top-level racing in the Basque Country. The second place overall of Chris Horner made for a successful week for Team RadioShack.
Klöden, 35, entered today's time trial in second place, tied on time with Spanish riders Joaquin Rodriquez (Katusha) and Olympic champion Sámuel Sánchez (Euskaltel Euskadi). But the German rider was the only one of the three who performed at a top level and dominated his rivals to earn the win. He arrived in Zalla with a finish time five seconds behind winner Tony Martin. Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) finished third, 24 seconds behind.
"The time trial went so well," said a happy Klöden. "Johan Bruyneel and José Azevedo coached me so well in the following car. They had the split times of Tony Martin. I started very fast and the climb went very well for me. I could keep my good pace till the end. Perfect."
"Andreas was really motivated," explained Team Director Johan Bruyneel. "He saw the course four times, by bike and in the car. It shows his determination to win. He wanted to take the victory. Already from the beginning it was clear that he was in the right rhythm. On the top of the climb he was seven seconds faster than Martin, but better yet, 30 seconds better than the other GC contenders. That's why we decided not to take any more risks in the descent and not jeopardize the overall victory. We also knew it would be hard to beat Tony Martin on that flat part."
For Andreas Klöden, who twice finished second in the Tour de France, the victory in the Tour of the Basque Country is his eighth victory in a pro stage race. Among his wins are Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adricatico, Tour de Romandie and the Tour of the Basque Country eleven years ago.
"It was a very hard week. There were a lot of climbs and so many attacks," said Klöden after the race. "It's unbelievable really that I've won here again after 11 years. But it shows what can happen. You need to be strong mentally and have a nice team. Without the team it's not possible. My team was always in the race and looking out for me. I want to say thank you to my team."
Team Director Viatcheslav Ekimov was a happy man in Zalla, too. "We came with ambition. We came with two leaders and both of them couldn't have had a better end result. The tactics, the rider's health, the team spirit, everything worked out fine. That's not always the case. We all are happy."
Throughout the week teammate and defending champion Chris Horner, 39, animated the race alongside Klöden, making a formidable duo on the road. Horner was only one second off the lead starting today's time trial and his strong performance to take ninth on the stage and the implosion of other top riders jumped the American into second place on the podium next to teammate Klöden, who is riding one of his best seasons in recent years.
"Honestly I haven't worked harder than the other years," concluded Klöden. "Maybe I even trained a bit less obsessively, but this year I never had bad luck or illnesses like in the last seasons. I was good in Algarve, I continued in Paris-Nice, recovered well and did a good TT in Critérium International. And here, in the Basque Country, I was lucky with this hot weather - perfect for me - and with my glorious teammates."