Euskaltel-Euskadi had a great day in the mountains. Three of its riders were in the main group most of the climb, and it was Igor Antón, who was the designated leader for the stage, who attacked out of this group with about three kilometres to go. He finished third, 1'21" down on Moreau.
Haimar Zubeldia hung on with the main contenders to get sixth, at 1'56", while Mikel Astarloza lost a little bit of time in the end and finished just ahead of Mountain's classification leader Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), 2'46" behind the day's winner, Frenchman Christophe Moreau.
This strong performance got Euskaltel the team prize for the day, 1'08" ahead of CSC, which also had multiple riders in the main group. Gorka Gerrikagoitia, who is guiding the team during this race, said that "the stage has been very positive for us, I am very satisfied with the team work and we were rewarded for our good work by winning the team prize."
Gerrikagoitia thought that this performance will give them confidence and reassurance that they are on the right track towards the Tour de France. He confessed that "winning in this sport is very difficult, but we have shown that we are riding on a high level and we can be optimistic."
The day didn't start too well for the team. "As expected, a small break went away and we didn't have anybody in it. We should have been more attentive there." Additionally Igor Antón also didn't feel too well going into the lower parts of the climb and at some point almost lost the wheels of the group, but he gave it his all to stay in there and once he found his rhythm he went well. "The plan was to attack with five kilometres to go, but we were lacking a bit of confidence," confided Gerrikagoitia. So instead, Antón went with three to go but there was not enough time to get back up to Moreau and Szmyd.
Anton was split about his feelings. "On the one hand I am very happy about my performance and that I as able to stay with the likes of Menchov, Piepoli and Evans. On the other hand it's a pity that Moreau and Szmyd had such a big gap already as I was feeling better and better."
The Euskaltel management was also happy with the performance of Haimar Zubeldia, who was riding "steady and solid." It hopes this performance gives him enough confidence for the Tour. "It was good to have this test after the 40 kilometre time trial," said Gerrikagoitia. A similar one-two punch will be offered on stages 13 and 14 of the Tour. He went on to say that "Saturday, will be another big day in the high mountains."
Zubeldia declared that "the stage was very positive for me and I had good sensations during the climb. It's close to the Tour and things look good. Saturday will be another good mountain test and I hope to do well." He commented on his overall standing (3'12" behind Kashechkin) "I could be a little higher if I had given it more during the time trial. I was not too happy with it, I think I could have done better. We'll see if I can climb up in the GC some more on Saturday."
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