Yauheni Hutarovitch quickly made a name for himself by taking his first grand tour stage win at the Vuelta a España in Marbella, outsprinting no less than the three fastest men in the sport: Mark Cavendish, Tyler Farrar and Alessandro Petacchi.
While "Who-tarovitch?" may have been the question on the lips of many riders and commentators as the Belarus hit the line, there was one person who expected the victory, and it was the winner himself. "It's not a surprise for me," 26-year-old Hutarovitch declared. "My stage win at the Tour of Poland gave me the confidence I needed and I was sure to win a stage during this Vuelta. It just came very quickly."
The victory by the big man from Belarus was a surprise to many, as was evident on the face of Cavendish directly after the finish and from the comments of Garmin-Transitions directeur sportif Johnny Weltz. "We've been unlucky to come up against a rider who usually doesn't win at a high level," said Weltz.
In defense of Cavendish, Farrar and Petacchi, FDJ manager Marc Madiot said: "'Huta' is fresh because he hasn't raced the Tour de France this year." In the Tour, FDJ focused on climbers Christophe Le Mével and Sandy Casar and did not select the Belarus rider as they did in 2009 when he collected his best result when he finished third in stage 11 in Saint-Fargeau, won by Cavendish.
This is the first time Hutarovich has prevailed against such a quality field. He turned professional in 2007 with the Roubaix-Lille Metropole team, where he claimed his first win in the Tour du Poitou Charentes et de la Vienne. In 2008 he moved to Francaise des Jeux, coming second on stage two of the Tour Méditerranéen, before scoring his first victory and taking the race lead on the second stage of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen.
His Tour of Poland stage earlier this summer was his first victory at ProTour level and his win today was the 16th of his pro career.
"He's improving constantly," Madiot said of the 26 year-old from Minsk. "With this win, he enters the circle of the great sprinters. He's just coming of age now."
For now, Cavendish, Farrar and Petacchi have another foe to watch as they head into stage 3, a 157km journey over three classified climbs to Málaga. With a category 1 climb in the final 30km, the rematch may have to wait a few more days but Hutarovich is a pretty good climber and could cause another surprise on Monday.