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Dane comes out triumphant in hugely confusing bunch sprint; Tony Martin is caught by arch rival Cancellara less than 100m from the line at the end of a 175km breakaway

Photo: Unipublic / Graham Watson

MICHAEL MØRKØV

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VUELTA A ESPAÑA

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29.08.2013 @ 17:09 Posted by Malte Philbert Jessen

Michael Mørkøv (Saxo-Tinkoff) became a hugely surprising winner of the 6th stage of the Vuelta a Espana when the Danish champion shot ahead in a confusing bunch sprint. World time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was about to bring a 175km breakaway to a successful end when Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack) launched a long sprint to catch the German less than 100m from the line and Mørkøv profited from his slipstream to take the win. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished safely in the bunch to defend his leader's jersey.

 

Michael Mørkøv (Saxo-Tinkoff) may be known as a fast rider but until today the Dane has never been even close to mixing it up in the bunch sprints in the biggest races. Nonetheless, he gave it a try in the finale of today's flat 6th stage of the Vuelta a Espana and that proved to be a wise decision.

 

The Dane had lost out in the battle for position when the peloton approached the finish line in a high-speed finale. A hard chase of world time trial champion Tony Martin was going on as the German had done an outstanding ride to keep the peloton at bay on his own for the entire 175km stage and Argos-Shimano was giving it their last to reel in the powerful German when they passed the flamme rouge.

 

It seemed that Martin would do the unthinkable and take an impressive solo win when Fabian Cancellara suddenly saw and opening. With Juan-Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil) and Mørkøv in his wheel, he opened up a long sprint and caught his arch rival less than 100m from the line.

 

Having been brought to the front by the strong Swiss, Mørkøv suddenly found himself in a winning position and the Dane was quick to grab the chance with both hands. He came around both Martin and Cancellara to take the win ahead of Maximilano Richeze (Lampre) who had to settle for 2nd for the second day in a row. A disappointed Martin still managed to finish 7th.

 

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) had a mostly calm day in the saddle and finished safely in the bunch to defend his 3-second lead over Chris Horner (Radioshack). He will have to survive another sprint stage tomorrow before the Vuelta reaches the mountains on Saturday.

 

Starting at 15.00 you can follow tomorrow's stage on CyclingQuotes.com/live.

 

A lone Martin

The 175km stage was almost completely flat and seemed destined to offer the pure sprinters their first opportunity in the race. However, Tony Martin had a different plan.

 

The German saw the stage as the perfect opportunity to get some quality training for world time trial championships and so he attacked as soon as the flag was dropped to signal the official start of the race. Marco Pinotti  had a similar plan and set off in pursuit of Martin. The opening part of the stage evolved into a pursuit between two time trial giants. Unsurprisingly, Martin was the strongest and after a short while, Pinotti fell back into the peloton.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE chases

Astana rode a steady tempo on the front of the peloton but when the gap had reached 7.30, Orica-GreenEDGE took their responsibility as the race's most successful sprint team. They out Christian Meier on the front and he started to reduce Martin's advantage.

 

When they approached the day's first intermediate sprint, Belkin strung things out as they planned to use Bauke Mollema's fast sprint to pick up a few bonus seconds. The Dutchman was beaten by Tyler Farrar but was awarded one second to support his GC aspirations.

 

A stable gap

The gap had now been reduced to 5.30 and from there, Meier and Martin were involved in a battle which has kept the gap stable at around that mark.

 

Orica-GreenEdge decided to give Meier a small rest and instead Simon Clarke took over the pace-setting duties. He was joined by Tom Stamsnijder (Argos-Shimano) who was intent on setting up a sprint win for Ramon Sinkeldam.

 

The gap comes down

Those two riders combined forces to reduce the gap and when the pace further increased as they passed the second intermediate sprint, Martin's gap was down to 3.17 with 63km to go. Farrar once again took 2nd behind Martin while his teammate Alex Howes picked up the final bonus seconds.

 

Meier returned to the front and the three chasers now dug deep to reel in Martin. However, the German kept pushing on and when he passed the 20km to go banner, he still had a gap of a little less than a  minute.

 

Vacansoleil starts to chase

Stamsnijder and Meier disappeared from the front and instead Vacansoleil asked Lieuwe Westra and Thomas De Gendt to take some turns on the front. The two time trial specialists joined forces with Clarke as they tried to prepare a win for their sprinter Barry Markus.

 

With 12km to go, they ran out of power and instead Astana took over. Andriy Grivko took some huge turns on the front to keep Nibali safe but was overtaken by Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Movistar) who tried to keep Alejandro Valverde near the front.

 

No team takes control

With 9km to go, Martin was only 19 seconds ahead but the peloton now slowed  a bit down. The sprint teams were all afraid of hitting the front too early and so no team took control.

 

With 5km to go, Martin was less than 10 seconds ahead but he managed to keep his gap stable for a couple of kilometres. Argos-Shimano know realized that they had to react and so launched their train.

 

Martin pushes on

Despite their efforts, Martin managed to extend his lead from 8 to 9 seconds on the stretch between the 3km and 2km to go banners. A Cofidis rider made an unsuccessful attack but Argos didn't have the power to get closer to Martin.

 

Orica-GreenEdge put Mitchell Docker on the front and as they passed the flamme rouge Alex Rasmussen took a huge turn to give Farrar a chance to sprint for the win. Next in line was Reinhardt Janse Van Rensburg who did his best with Sinkeldam in his wheel.

 

With 500m to go, it was clear that Argos was unable to reel in Martin and that was when Cancellara kicked into the action. The Swiss launched a furious sprint to catch his arch rival just before the line, just allowing Mørkøv to take what is by far the biggest win of his career.

 

Result:

1. Michael Mørkøv 3.54.15

2. Maximilano Richeze

3. Fabian Cancellara

4. Tyler Farrar

5. Juan Antonio Flecha

6. Michael Matthews

7. Tony Martin

8. Gianni Meersman

9. Philippe Gilbert

10. Graeme Brown

 

General classification:

1. Vincenzo Nibali 22.38.07

2. Chris Horner +0.03

3. Nicolas Roche +0.08

4. Haimar Zubeldia +0.16

5. Alejandro Valverde +0.21

6. Robert Kiserlovski +0.26

7. Rigoberto Uran +0.28

8. Daniel Moreno +0.31

9. Rafal Majka +0.38

10. Roman Kreuziger +0.42

 

Points classification:

1. Michael Matthews 51

2. Daniel Moreno 48

3. Maximiliano Richeze 40

4. Nicolas Roche 38

5. Gianni Meersman 38

 

Mountains classification:

1. Nicolas Roche 11

2. Nicolas Edet 8

3. Daniel Moreno 6

4. Winner Anacona 5

5. Domenico Pozzovivo 4

 

Combination classification:

1. Nicolas Roche 8

2. Daniel Moreno 13

3. Chris Horner 18

4. Alejandro Valverde 19

5. Joaquim Rodriguez 39

 

Teams classification:

1. Radioshack 66.54.52

2. Saxo-Tinkoff +0.05

3. Belkin +1.10

4. NetApp-Endura +1.25

5. Movistar +1.28

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