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Martin finally gets his first time trial victory of the season when he beats Contador by 7 seconds on a hilly course in the Basque Country while the Tinkoff-Saxo leader takes the overall win ahead of Kwiatkowski and Peraud

Photo: Sirotti

ALBERTO CONTADOR

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ITZULIA BASQUE COUNTRY

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JEAN-CHRISTOPHE PÉRAUD

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MICHAL KWIATKOWSKI

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SOUDAL - QUICK STEP

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TONY MARTIN

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12.04.2014 @ 17:41 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) marked his return to form after a disappointing start to the season by winning today's hilly final time trial of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. In a close battle, he held off Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) by 7 seconds and the result was enough for the latter to take the overall win ahead of Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r).

 

Tony Martin has had the very rare experience of not winning three time trials in a row at the beginning of the season but today he finally broke the ice when he won the hilly final time trial of the Vuelta a Pais Vasco. The world champion powered around the course in a time of 38.33 which was enough to take his second win in the six-day race.

 

However, it was not one of those dominant wins that he has so often taken in the past. In fact it came down to the very end of the stage before he could make a sigh of relief and head towards the podium ceremony.

 

By the time, Martin passed the intermediate check he had crushed the opposition as he had put a massive 40 seconds into Ion Izagirre (Movistar) who had even been far better than most others at that point. At the finish, however, he had lost a bit of time to both Izagirre and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) who had taken the lead.

 

This made things interesting when his teammate Michal Kwiatkowski passed the intermediate check in a time that was just 13 seconds slower than his and it got even more exciting when race leader Alberto Contador was just 7 seconds behind. With Martin clearly having started out very fast, there was a big chance that he would be passed by the two GC riders in the end.

 

Unlike Dumoulin, however, the pair was unable to take time in the second part, with Kwiatkowski crossing the line in a time that was 2 seconds too slow and Contador remaining 7 seconds behind at the finish. Hence, Martin took his second stage win in the race while Kwiatkowski took his 5th (!!) third place in the 6-day race.

 

Contador may have missed the stage win but it was no major disaster for the Tinkoff-Saxo leader who could celebrate his third overall victory in the race. The expected duel between him and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) never happened as Valverde was behind his rival and could only manage 8th, dropping to 5th on the overall standings.

 

Instead, Kwiatkowski benefited from his great ride to take second overall while Jean-Christophe Peraud's fifth place was enough to move him into 3rd, just 3 seconds ahead of Simon Spilak (Katusha) who had produced a great ride to finish fourth on the stage. Tejay van Garderen rounded out the top 6 for BMC as the best of the American team's three-pronged attack.

 

Kwiatkowski won the points jersey in the race while Davide Villella (Cannondale) took the mountains classification. Omar Fraile (Caja Rural) took the win in the sprints competition while BMC was the best team.

 

Racing in the Basque Country continues tomorrow when some of today's riders line up for the one-dayrace Klasika Primavera while the WorldTour is already back in action tomorrow as well where a completely different field of riders take on Paris-Roubaix.

 

A hilly time trial

As usual, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco came to a close with a very hilly time trial. The course consisted of a 25.9km loop around the city of Markina-Xamein that consisted of two climbs with their subsequent descent and there were very few metres of flat roads for the specialists to put down the hammer.

 

There had been some fear of rain for the final stage of the race but by the time Jack Bobridge (Belkin) rode down the ramp as the first rider, the conditions were still dry. Bobridge showed his great TT skills when he set a time of 40.57 that would stand for some time as held off the early challenges from Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) and Michel Koch (Cannondale.

 

Best time for Wellens

The first rider to beat Bobridge was sprint classification winner Fraile but he didn't get long time to enjoy his lead. Lotto Belisol climber Tim Wellens lowered the mark by 20 seconds after having already set the best time at the intermediate check.

 

That time was beaten by Stef Clement and the Belkin rider kept his speed all the way to the finish to slot into the top position. However, he knew that it would be for long as his intermediate time had already been beaten by Bob Jungels (Trek) and simply crushed by Izagirre.

 

Izagirre crushes the opposition

Jungels took the lead but 8 seconds later, Izagirre powered across the line to lower the mark by a massive 52 seconds. At this point, Movistar occupied the top 3 spots at the intermediate as Benat Intxausti and Jose Herrada were sitting second and third.

 

At the finish though, the pair could only manage 3rd and 4th respectively and moments later they lost the top position when Dumoulin set a time that was 3 seconds faster than Izagirre's. By this time, however, it was already known that Martin had been a massive 42 seconds faster at the intermediate but when he crossed the line to take the lead, he was only 38 seconds better than his Dutch rival.

 

Spilak gets close

The GC battle had now started, with young Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) performing splendidly to slot into the provisional top 10. All eyes, however, were on Spilak who crossed the line in a time that was only 16 seconds slower than Martin and had even taken time on the world champion in the second part.

 

Van Garderen had a slightly disappointing ride to cross the line in fifth while Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) surprised everybody when he crossed the line in a time than was good enough for 6th. Wout Poels continued his great performance when he set the 10th best time but the focus was now on Kwiatkowski.

 

No glory for Kwiatkowski

The Pole failed to take time on Martin in the second part and crossed the line in 2nd, beating Spilak by just one second. Yury Trofimov (Katusha) did great with a provisional 11th while Peraud made another finer TT performance by crossing the line in fourth.

 

Cadel Evans (BMC) set the 9th best time while Damiano Cunego (Lampre) fought valiantly to defend his podium position, taking 18th at the line. All that remained was now for Valverde and Contador to finish their rides but as Valverde had been far behind at the intermediate check, there was no doubt about the overall winner.

 

Valverde crossed the line in 7th and so narrowly lost his spot on the podium but all eyes were now on the battle for the stage win. At the intermediate check, Contador had just been 7 seconds behind Martin but as the difference was the same at the finish, he had to be content with the overall victory.

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