Belkin's four-man team laid low on Thursday's 18th stage in the Vuelta a Espana, preferring to hold their fire for today's easier mountain finish at Alto Naranco. The team plans to be part of the break of the day and so target their second stage win, with Bauke Mollema keen for another win.
“We didn’t see a lot of opportunities today. Therefore, we were all able to save our energy for tomorrow,” said Sports Director Merijn Zeeman after Thursday's stage. “Bauke (Mollema) and David (Tanner) can win the stage. We’ll do everything to get them in the mix for the win. The final is quite explosive, which suits our men.”
Mollema, who won the 17th stage with a last-minute attack, did have an eye out for a second consecutive stage win, but things did not work out. “If the pack would have reeled in the break before the foot of the final climb, Bauke wanted to give it a go, but the peloton clicked into gear too late.” The victory went to Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) who was part of the day's original break group."
Mollema would like to duplicate Kiryienka's feat. “An escape stands a good chance tomorrow. Of course, you never know if the other teams will want to, and can, close the gap, but we want to give it a go. It’s our best shot at another stage win,” he said.
“Today, it became clear early on that the break was going to make it. At that point, none of us had much to gain. I saved energy so I can go all out again tomorrow.”
Belkin's biggest problem could be the expected showdown between race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard). The Italian leads the Vuelta by just three seconds, with Horner promising to attack on the finish to Alto Naranco.