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Anton's Vuelta hopes fade

Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is one of the favourites to take overall honours.

Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is one of the favourites to take overall honours. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

Euskaltel-Euskadi had high hopes for its leader Igor Anton in this year's Vuelta a España, but a loss of 1:38 on the fourth stage to Sierra Nevada has seen those expectations fade.

Anton won a stage and led the 2010 Vuelta for five days until a crash on stage 14 knocked him out of the race completely.

In the team's press release, Anton said he doesn't quite have the same form as he did last year, but hasn't given up on a result in this year's race.

"Today has been very complicated," he said. "Already on [stage 3] to Totana I didn't have the best feelings but managed to save the day, but today it was impossible to ride at the front. I did not had the best legs and lost important time for the overall."

After conceding time in the opening team time trial in addition to today's loss, Anton is now 2:44 behind race leader Sylvain Chavanel, and 1:51 in arrears of 2010 winner Vincenzo Nibali.

"Although we can't rule anything out, it's a lot of time to lose," he admitted. "A minute and a half is a very significant difference to account for. The Vuelta has only just begun and I do not want to think too much about this issue. We must be calm, race well and not rush to any conclusions. Now it's time to recover and tomorrow is another day."

Anton can thank his teammates Gorka Verdugo and Amets Txurruka who helped pull him to the finish and limit the damage on the day.

"My teammates did a great job and I did not lose very much time thanks to them," said Antón. "Verdugo did a very good climb and helped me so I didn't lose more time."

Anton's bad day comes just before the Vuelta re-visits the site of his 2010 stage victory at Valdepeñas de Jaén, where he donned the points classification jersey, but after today's result, he doesn't see a repeat of that result in his future.

"I don't have the points of last year, but I have clear and beautiful memories," Anton said. "I won the stage and took a leader's jersey... it was very exciting."

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