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Having launched a solo attack on the main climb of the day, Taaramae held off the chasing peloton to win the Vuelta a Murcia, his first race in Astana colours; Mollema and Stybar completed the podium

Photo: Tour of Turkey / Mario Stiehl

ASTANA - PREMIER TECH

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BAUKE MOLLEMA

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REIN TAARAMAE

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VUELTA A MURCIA

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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14.02.2015 @ 16:20 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Rein Taaramae got his time at Astana off to the perfect start when he took an impressive solo win in his first race with the Kazakh team. In the Spanish one-day race Vuelta a Murcia, the Estonian attacked on the main climb of the day and held off the peloton for more than 50km while Bauke Mollema (Trek) and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) had to settle for the minor spots on the podium.

 

A few years ago Rein Taaramae was regarded as one of the most talented stage racers in the peloton but the sudden occurrence of breathing problems set him back and he disappeared into anonymity. Last year surgery finally solved his problems and he gave a few indications that he was back on track.

 

Astana were quick to react to the encouraging signs by signing the Estonian as an important climbing domestique and today he made his debut with his new team. The Kazakhs have every reason to be pleased with their signing as the Estonian won the Vuelta a Murcia with an impressive solo performance.

 

Already in the beginning of the race, Taaramae was very active and he was briefly part of an 11-rider group that escaped after the first climb. With Trek chasing hard, however, that move never got much of advantage and while two continental riders pressed on, Taaramae dropped back to the peloton.

 

Here he saved energy for a big attack while his Astana teammates combined forces with Movistar to bring back the early escape on the lower slopes of the first of two category 3 climbs. That was the signal for Taaramae to make his move and he launched a strong attack that saw him crest the summit with a 32-second advantage.

 

Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) briefly tried to chase him down but he had no success as Movistar, Trek and FDJ were now chasing hard in the peloton. However, Taaramae was apparently in a class of his own as he constantly extended his advantage.

 

With 5km to go, the Estonian was 2.20 ahead and even though the final 2km were up a tough climb, it was clear that he was not going to be caught. While the Astana rider could enjoy a beautiful solo win, the pre-race favourites had to battle it out for second and it was Bauke Mollema who showed his good condition by beating Zdenek Stybar in a sprint from a small group to take the runner-up spot. The gap had been reduced to 10 seconds but Taaramae didn’t care as he had taken his time to celebrate his win.

 

Many of the riders in today’s race will be back in action tomorrow when the weekend of Spanish races continues with the Clasica de Almeria. Despite a few smaller climbs at the midpoint, however, the race has a flat finale and so it should allow the sprinters a chance to shine.

 

A hilly course

For the third year in a row, the Vuelta a Murcia was held as a one-day race and the hilly course was similar to the one that was used 12 months ago. It brought the riders over 198.1km from Mazarron to a summit finish on the Alto Fortaleza del Sol in Lorca. After a mostly flat start with only a single category 3 climb in the early part, the riders tackled two big category 1 mountains just after the midpoint. From there, they followed a long descent and slightly ascending roads to the bottom of the 2km final climb which had an average gradient of 5.8%.

 

The riders took the start on a partly cloudy day but with a temperature of 18 degrees and barely any wind, it was a perfect day for a bike race. Right from the start, the attacking started and it was a very fast beginning to the race as no one was apparently able to get clear.

 

A big break

As the riders started to climb the first category 2 climb, Roman Kustadinchev (Rusvelo), Halvor Tandrevold (Frøy Oslo), Ibai Salas (Burgos) and Garikoitz Bravo (Murias Taldea) managed to escape but before they had reached the top, they were brought back. Instead, it was Igor Anton (Movistar) who led Rein Taaramae (Astana) and Javier Moreno (Movistar) over the summit.

 

On the descent, a strong group with Chad Haga (Giant-Alpecin), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), Moreno, Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Victor Martin (Burgos), Carlos Verona (Etixx-QuickStep), Tiago Machado (Katusha), Bravo, Taaramae, Anton and Bravo managed to get clear and after 25km of racing, they were 1 minute ahead. However, Trek had missed the move and so they started to chase, keeping the gap stable at around 1.30.

 

Two riders take off

As the gap started to come down, Martin launched an attack and only Bravo responded. The rest of the escapees decided to sit up to wait for the peloton.

 

The peloton now slowed completely down and at the 45km mark, the gap was already 3.50. After 67km of racing, it was a massive 10 minutes and this prompted Astana and Movistar to start a chase.

 

The break is caught

The gap even reached 11.39 before it started to come down. After 100km of racing, the two WorldTour teams had brought it down to 4.50 and it even dropped to 3 minutes before a small lull in the peloton allowed it to go out to 5.04.

 

As the peloton approached the first of the two category 1 climbs, the Alto de Espuna, the advantage again started to come down and at the bottom of the ascent, it was only 1.45. As soon as they started to climb, Movistar set a brutal pace and when the break was within sight, Bravo tried a solo move. It was all in vain though and at the 146km mark, the race was back together.

 

Taraamae goes clear

Taaramae was unstoppable and the Estonian launched a strong attack on the steep slopes. As he crested the summit, he had an advantage of 35 seconds and on the descent he managed to extend it to a minute as he passed the 165km mark.

 

Navarro took off in pursuit and he managed to get to within 32 seconds of the leader but as he started to lose ground, he decided to drop back to the peloton. However, Taaramae was not slowing down and with 20km to go, he was 2.04 ahead of the peloton which was still led by Movistar.

 

With 15km to, the advantage had been increased to 2.18 and the impressive Taaramae had even added another 9 seconds to his gap when he passed the 10km to go mark. Now Trek had also started to chase and it was even Frank Schleck taking some huge turns on the front. With 5km to go, the gap was still 2.20 and Taaramae held on to take his first win as an Astana rider.

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