46th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - PT
Spain, April 3-8, 2006
Voeckler beats Voigt in two up
Gutsy French rider Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) has scored his first victory of 2006 by beating German hard man Jens Voigt (CSC) in a two man sprint at the end of stage 5 of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. The pair attacked the leading breakaway with 20 km to go, having been away for almost all of the tough, 178 km stage between Vitoria-Gasteiz and Zalla. Juan Jose Cobo (Saunier Duval) finished third. And after coming under some pressure during the stage, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) kept the leader's jersey with just one stage to go: a 24 km time trial.
How it unfolded
The penultimate stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco started at 12:40 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, with 157 riders signing on: Leukemans (Davitamon) and George (Relax) did not. The weather was a little cooler, with temperatures of 12 degrees Celsius greeting the riders. The first attack of the day was the one that stuck, initiated by eventual winner Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues), who was joined by Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Benoît Poilvet and Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), Gustavo César (Kaiku), Jens Voigt (CSC), Juan Jose Cobo (Saunier Duval), Constantino Zaballa (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Andriy Grivko (Milram) and Remy Di Gregorio (Française des Jeux).=
After 14 km, the 10 man break had 1'30 over the peloton, where Euskaltel was settling into a controlling tempo. The break was a little dangerous for the race leader Samuel Sanchez, and after 28 km, a gap of 4'41 gave Grivko the virtual lead in the race. That grew to 5'49 at the foot of the cat. 1 Alto de Orduña (km 49), a 6.5 km climb averaging 8.5%. Over the summit of the climb, it was Cobo first ahead of Zaballa, Voigt and Caucchioli, with the peloton at 5'30. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) abandoned the race at this point.
Euskaltel allowed the break even more time: 6'11 after 67 km, which put Grivko in yellow by more than two minutes. The orange brigade was not being helped by any other team, even Liberty Seguros, which didn't have a rider up front. At km 100, the gap was still 5'20 but the final part of the stage feature numerous cat. 3 climbs, and the leader's team was able to increase its tempo to draw the break back.
Phonak began to help in the final 40 km, as did Gerolsteiner, and that saw the lead come down rapidly and Sanchez was safe. Remy Di Gregorio was one of the first to be dropped from the break, which also lost Zaballa. On the Alto de Avellaneda with 20 km to go, Voigt, Voeckler and Cobo dropped their breakaway companions and headed for the finish, with 3'20 still in hand over the peloton. Behind, Lampre and Saunier Duval tried to stir things up, but were closely marked by Euskaltel.
With 3 km to go, Voigt launched an attack that dropped Cobo, but he couldn't shake Voeckler. The pair time trialled to the finish and in their two man sprint to the line, it was Voeckler who got the better of Voigt, with a photofinish required to separate the pair.
Tomorrow's final stage is a 24 km time trial around Zalla, and with 15 riders within 47 seconds of Sanchez, the victory could go to any one of them.