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Vuelta a España Notebook, stage 5: Sivtsov safe from Highroad demise; Antón throws in towel

VALDEPENAS, Spain (VN) – Kanstantsin Sivtsov says he secured his future long before the collapse of the HTC-Highroad team, which will shutter its doors at the end of the 2011 season.

The 29-year-old Belorusian said he began negotiations with teams during this year’s Giro d’Italia, where he finished 10th overall, and said he will reveal his new squad soon.

“I started talking to teams in May. Everyone was hoping the team could continue, because Highroad is one of the best teams in cycling,” Sivtsov told VeloNews. “I already signed a contract. Maybe I can say who it is in one week.”

Sivtsov would be a natural fit for Katusha, which is still looking for a strong GC contender to carry the team. He turned pro with the Russian-backed Itera in 2001-2002 before eventually landing on Highroad in 2008.

Sivtsov said the HTC-Highroad was sending mixed signals to the team riders as management scrambled to try to find a new sponsor to carry the team forward. Bob Stapleton told reporters in a conference call earlier this month that deals fell short in the weeks following the Tour de France to secure the team’s future, prompting management to decide to fold the team rather than see it continue with less-than-viable financial backing.

“During the Tour of Poland, they said we have a sponsor for next year and we are ready to sign riders to contracts. Then two days later, Bob sent everybody an email that it was not going to happen. That was a big shock to everybody,” he said. “It’s disappointing to see the team close. It was a very good team, with good staff, good directors, good ambiance. My future is secure, but I am disappointed for the staff and the young riders on this team. For young riders, it was a great team to develop and to make a big test for the future.”

Despite the reality that the team will not continue, Sivtsov said the riders and staff at HTC-Highroad want to finish off their final grand tour on a positive note. The team has already lost sprinters Mark Cavendish and Matt Goss, however, leaving the team without its best chances of winning a stage.

“Everybody wants to work well to the finish. People are motivated to race well here in this final Vuelta,” he said. “Everyone is professional and we want to do our jobs until the end.”

A former winner at the Tour de Georgia, Sivtsov is a strong time trialist who can climb who is looking to chase a strong GC position going into the final week of the Vuelta. After Wednesday’s stage, Sivtsov was 16th overall at 58 seconds back.

“I am feeling OK so far in this Vuelta,” he said. “Maybe if I can stay with the favorites, I can be in the top 10.”

Antón throws in towel

Igor Antón, a winner at Valdepeñas de Jaén last year, admitted that his GC chances are all but finished after losing 1:28 to the GC favorites when he couldn’t stay with a group of about 40 riders up Tuesday’s summit finish to Sierra Nevada.

“Having lost one and half minute, it’s even very difficult to make the final podium of the Vuelta”, he said before the start. “I’ll do it another year. I’m not as strong as last year. I have an incredible memory of this stage to Valdepeñas de Jaén. It was very nice. It gave me so much confidence in the fact that I can win this kind of uphill finishes.”

Antón barnstormed to victory here last year, but wasn’t a factor in Wednesday’s stage, crossing the line 45th at 57 seconds back. Antón dipped to 37th at 3:10 back and said he will try to rebound to win a stage. Euskatel-Euskadi said they will now ride to protect Mikel Nieve, 14th overall at 57 seconds off the pace. The 27-year-old Nieve won a stage in last year’s Vuelta en route to 12th overall and won a stage in this year’s Giro d’Italia to finish 11th overall.

Jerseys: Chavanel holds on

Red: Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) kept the leader’s jersey to be the first rider to defend the red jersey so far in this Vuelta. Dani Moreno (Katusha) clawed within nine seconds of the lead.
Mountain: Moreno defended his lead with 20 points, but three-time defending KoM champion David Moncoutie (Cofidis) took 5 points over the second passage on Valdepeñas to signal he will try to win a record fourth climber’s jersey.
Points: Moreno leads 41-39 to Katusha teammate Joaquím Rodríguez.
Combined: Moreno also leads this category. Team: RadioShack defended, now 46 seconds ahead of Rabobank.

Peloton: García, Ardila out

Spanish veteran Chente García (Movistar) crashed out with a possible broken wrist. He started his 15th Vuelta this year after completing the 14 others he’s raced and was going to make a decision about his future depending on how the Spanish tour unfolded. Mauricio Ardila (Geox-TMC) also abandoned, leaving 194 riders in the Vuelta.

Weather: More heat, sun

Forecasters are calling for “cooler” temperatures, with highs “only” in the 31-34C range. That is cool for the Córdoba, where summer temperatures sometimes can push north of 45C. Clears skies and light southwesterly winds await for the push west from Úbeda to Córdoba.

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