A six year wait for his first pro win outside his home country of Portugal finally ended in impressive style on stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana for Nelson Oliveira as he claimed a stunning solo victory at Tarazona.
Part of a 24-rider breakaway on Friday's hilly stage, Oliveira cleverly timed his winning move by attacking immediately after the summit of the final climb of the day, the Alto de Moncayo. As the rest of the breakaway riders hesitated, Oliveira then opened up the throttle on the long, steady descent to gain a minute's advantage by the finish and net the first win of his six-year career outside Portugal.
Three times a national time trial champion, in 2011, 2014 and 2015, and seventh in the Worlds Time Trial last year, the Lampre-Merida rider agreed that he had exploited his time trial skills to the maximum in order to ensure he stayed clear.
It was, he said, a race against the clock without any time references. "Once I'd got away, I had no idea what the gap was between me and the break behind, so I had to put my head down and hope," Oliveira said.
"They were the longest 30 kilometres of my career, to be honest I didn't think my move would stick. But [teammates Rubén] Plaza and [Valerio] Conti were in the break with me and they did a great job covering the counter-attacks."
Lampre's objective in the Tour de France, once their leader Rui Costa was injured and quit, was stage victories - like the one taken by Plaza at Gap - and in the Vuelta the Italian outfit have the same goal too, with Oliveira netting their first of the 2015 race. Plaza, too, is well-placed in the King of the Mountains competition, where he is lying second overall, and Oliveira said that could well become a goal for the Spaniard.
With three riders in the break - the most of any of the teams represented - Lampre-Merida certainly used their numerical advantage well, their riders taking turns attacking on the final climb before Oliveira made his successful move just after the summit.
"I'd put a cross against this stage when I read the route book," the 26-year-old, who turned pro in 2010, said, "and it took some time for the break of the day to get away and form.
"Then when I went for it, it was a long way out and it could have been a completely mad attack, but I was finally able to make it work. As my first international win, it's certainly a good one."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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