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“It was a shame Mikel couldn’t hold on for those last few hundred metres over the summit because otherwise he would have definitely been in that front group at the end," Frost says

Photo: Sirotti










10.04.2014 @ 20:33 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Team Sky had a very bad day in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. GC captain Mikel Nieve lost contact with the favourites over the top of the final climb and Pete Kennaugh and Vasil Kiryienka both abandoned the race due to fatigue.


Mikel Nieve was unable to defend his top-10 position on a punishing fourth stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, but minimised his losses in a hotly contested conclusion which saw Wout Poels claim a narrow solo victory.

Nieve battled his way up the Alto de Uxartza as repeated attacks fired off the front, but lost contact with his fellow general classification contenders just metres before the summit. With no riders around him to join forces with in the final two kilometres, the Basque rider time-trialled home alone and crossed the line 26 seconds behind the triumphant Poels.


Poels had made his decisive attack with 2.8km to go after forming part of a four-man move who edged ahead on the final category-one climb. The Omega Pharma – Quick-Step rider remained clear as he rode on to the finishing straight, but a late rally saw him cross the line just one second ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing).


Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) finished in 10th place – two seconds further in arrears – and that result saw his advantage over Valverde drop to 12 seconds with just two stages remaining. Nieve meanwhile, now sits in 15th position on GC, 59 seconds back.


After the stage, Sports Director Dan Frost admitted tiredness had played a factor in how events had played out for his riders, and revealed the game plan would now change with only one road stage remaining.


“It was a shame Mikel couldn’t hold on for those last few hundred metres over the summit because otherwise he would have definitely been in that front group at the end. That would have put him in a great position heading into Saturday’s time trial because I don’t think he will lose any time tomorrow.


“It is what it is though, and we were just a little short at the end for him today. The guys rode super hard during a fast first hour, where the average was over 50km/h, and the attacks just kept on coming.


“Those efforts, and the efforts over the last few days, meant Pete [Kennaugh] and Kiry [Vasil Kiryienka] were forced to abandon through fatigue, and we only had Sebastian [Henao] left to support Mikel on that last climb. That wasn’t enough to put Mikel where he needed to be, but he did what he could and we’ll try and fight back tomorrow now.


“That might mean going on the attack and putting someone in the breakaway, but we’ll just have to see what power our riders have left.”



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