ITV Cycling's Matt Rendell looks back on La Vuelta's return to Basque country, on stage 19.
Horses on hold for a minute while we take about the stage...
The Euskadi team has existed for 18 years, founded and masterminded by Migual Madarriaga. Igor Antón came through the nursery team funded by the Basque bike manufacturer Orbea, became an Euskadi stagiaire in 2004 and turned pro with them in 2005. He won a stage of the 2006 Vuelta, and two last year. Today, the ascent of the 2nd Cat.
El Vivero started in his home village of Galdakao.
Euskaltel-Euskadi have had a rotten Vuelta. Antón hasn’t had the form, Mikel Nieve looks like finishing tenth after a fine, but not a winning performance, and they’ve had no stage wins. Until now. They’ll want another tomoroow and the day after. But Antón has done the job, attacking out of what was once a four-man breakaway 35 from the line, to win alone. A victory for localism in the setting of globalised sport. Through the car window, he shook Madarriaga's hand before the deviation. Emotional, emotive moments.
So thin are the storylines at this stage of the race that I’m reduced to noting that Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar), who dropped to 17th yesterday after Kiserlowski’s efforts, rose to 14th today by virtue of his second place in the stage.
Right: that Sky attack. What were they thinking? Disjointed, unfocused, spectacular, ineffectual. Thomas Lövqvist tore at the peloton for 20 kilometres or more, shedding riders they way Andrea Tafi once did, until its population numbered no more than thirty. Then he pulled away – and the pace dropped instantly.
Cobo had Menchov and, notably, De La Fuente, to hand, when Wiggins moved to the front and set a pace that caused discomfort but not the pain required to break up the peloton on a short ramp like the Vivero.
You need to again with venom, Bettini-style, to tear a big group apart. Wiggins climbs too much like a climber. Ditto Froome. So when the former Kenyan attacked, it lacked the impetus of a power climber.
There was neither the gradient nor the length to claw back the necessary seconds. And what looked on paper to be a sinuous, technical descent turned out to be a vast, US-style freeway with no potential for holding a small gap.
We’ve seen television breakaways before, with little point but to show the jersey. This was a television attack. It petered out having achieved nothing. Or, perhaps, something: it allowed Team Sky to avoid criticism by the naïve. A mass-market TV attack: another contribution to cycling’s evolution.
Tomorrow, an intermediate sprint at 41km. Will we see Sky riders on rollers at the start? And then, the magnificent Urkiola. But too, too far form the finish line.
Thirteen seconds? We’ve been here before.