Kirchen beats Bettini in Basque country

Kim Kirchen proving that a Basque hat

Kim Kirchen proving that a Basque hat (Image credit:

Kim Kirchen (Team High Road) has taken his biggest victory since winning the Tour of Poland in 2006, after sprinting to victory on the Vuelta al País Vasco's second stage. The Luxemburger outpaced reigning UCI World Road Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) to claim the uphill bunch sprint.

"We said this morning at the team meeting that this was a good stage for Kim, and that's how it's worked out," said Team High Road sports director Valerio Piva. "We saw it was uphill at the end, and there aren't any real pure sprinters here, so it was a great chance for him.

"We got the whole team to work for him during the race, with Michael Barry being the one who led him up to the last kilometre," added Piva. "Kim started to accelerate with 300 metres left to race, maybe a bit too early, but he still won, which is what matters."

While Kirchen is a possible general classification contender, sitting just eight seconds behind the Spanish event's leader, but the rider is unlikely to target the overall win. Kirchen's main aim for the race is to prepare for Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"The general classification isn't something we would ever rule out, but to be honest that's not Kim's objective here," said Piva. "He came here to win a stage, to test his form, and he's done that. And if he can beat Bettini in Spain, maybe he'll do the same in Belgium as well."

Stage 1 winner Alberto Contador (Astana) continues to lead the six-stage event in his homeland of Spain.

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