Oscar Freire garnered a spectacular hat-trick win in Logroño, taking perhaps his finest bunch sprint victory on the sixth Vuelta stage. Freire powered to the line ahead of Koldo Fernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Angelo Furlan Crédit Agricole), leaving the usual stars Alessandro Petacchi, Tom Boonen and Allan Davis in his wake in a high-speed dash to the line with the wind.
The stage was defined by a long breakaway of four men, José Antonio López, Magnus Backstedt, Yuriy Krivtsov and Stéphane Augé, who stayed at the front of the race from the first kilometres until just seven to go when Milram's train finally brought them back for Petacchi. Despite the team's efforts, Ale-Jet just wasn't firing on all cylinders, and Freire was able to get his third win of this year's Tour of Spain.
Team manager Erik Breukink was pleased with the win, especially since all the top sprinters were there at the finish, unlike the previous hillier days where many joined the autobus before the stage finish. "Every victory has its own story," Breukink said on the team's website. "Yesterday's victory was special because of the toughness of the stage, the first one because of the uphill finish were he beat Bettini, and today in a real mass sprint. Oscar just wins in all possible ways."
Breukink was also pleased that Freire is getting his wins now, because he aims to drop out before the Vuelta reaches Madrid in order to improve his form for Worlds. "With Stuttgart in mind, he will have to improve his condition because he will have to ride 260 kilometres there. So he is not super-super."
The Rabobank manager felt the day went just perfectly for the team. "There was no pressure on us," he said. "And we have already worked a lot. We first rode for Oscar, then for his leader's jersey, then for Denis, and then for Oscar again. We had worked enough; the initiative was with the others.
The team has one larger objective, and that is an overall victory by its leader Denis Menchov, who inherited the 2005 Vuelta win after Roberto Heras tested positive for EPO. "The guys had to do a lot anyway to keep Menchov out of the wind, because of the side wind and the nervousness," Breukink explained. "A special compliment for Sébastian Langeveld and Pedro Horrillo who both helped Freire stay in front during the finale really well."
The stage was simple on paper, but Caisse d'Epargne's Oscar Pereiro explained that the day is often very nervous, and the team had to work hard to hang on to Vladimir Efimkin's amarillo jersey. "The stage of Logroño is always an important one in the Vuelta a España, most of all because of the wind and the echelons that can break the bunch. It happened also this year but we knew that we had to be very careful, and we did. And doing so we saved Vladimir's jersey."
"The stage was a very dangerous and nervous one and I think that tomorrow we will have more or less the same scenario. All the riders of the team realised a great job, one more time, and I hope that tomorrow will be as good a day as it was today."