An impressive and unexpected downhill move by Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing Team) in the Vuelta a España has seen the Irishman draw equal on time with Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) prior to Wednesday's first big mountain stage.
Roche is also the first GC contender to regain time on race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), after clawing back 29 seconds on the technical descent from the Collado Bermejo climb on Tuesday's 10th stage.
Standing outside the BMC Racing team bus just after the finish, Roche told Cyclingnews that the attack had been anything but planned and that – unlike many riders who have done the Collado Bermejo in the Vuelta a Murcia one-day race – he was on completely new terrain making the descent.
"I've never been here," Roche said afterwards. "I just said 'let's go.' It was a proper improvisation. I said to myself, I'm not the worst descender in the peloton so it could be a real opportunity particularly as there are a few splits amongst the group. So I thought I'd give everything."
The descent was as dodgy as it looked on TV, he confirmed. "I had a few scares. I locked up my back wheel trying to go on the inside of Froomey on one of the hairpins and almost came down and that happened to me a few times on the descent.
"But it's part of the job, I'm not a big fan of those kinds of descents for finishes, but today it definitely suited me."
The second week has got off to a good start for Roche, even though he recognised that it will be a different situation on stage 11's summit finish at Calar Alto. "It's going to be very different to today's finish. I know the shape is there, I'm definitely in great condition. But tomorrow [Wednesday] is a big test with the high mountains and let's see how it goes."
"To get 30 seconds is good," BMC Racing Team sports director Max Sciandi told Cyclingnews. "Orica knew what was going on, and they were chasing. Everything counts you know. OK, Froome's up there, he's like on his own star, but behind that, I think anything can happen – the heat, the wet, the descents. You just grab what you can."
Sciandri said that he was pleased that the race now moved into different terrain, and "This is better for Nico and Tejay [van Garderen]. We're out of the punchy, two k, three k climbs and onto the 10-kilometre ones. That's better."
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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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