By Andrew Hood
After trying in every stage, Euskaltel finally scored a victory for the home team when David Etxebarria won a five-up sprint in the morning sector of Friday’s two-part finale of the 42nd Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
Etxebarria’s victory lifts him into second-place overall going into the afternoon’s 15.2-km time trial. Aitor Osa of ibanesto.com finished with the lead group to all but guarantee overall victory.
“I’m very glad to win this stage because we’ve been working hard all week to secure a victory,” Etxebarria said after winning the six-climb, 96-km stage. “Now all I will think about is Liege-Bastogne-Liege.”
Tyler Hamilton (CSC-Tiscali), troubled all week by allergies, pulled away with an early break that was absorbed going into the Alto de Endoia, the first of two category-one climbs at 51 kms. Cadel Evans (Mapei) attacked on the category-one Alto de Azurki at 63 kms, but is caught on the descent by Etxebarria, Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Gonzalo Bayarri (Jazztel) and leader Osa.
The five stay clear of a fractured peloton. A group of 10 riders remained 50 seconds back with 15 kms to go. Bingen Fernandez (Cofidis) started the day second but dropped more than 5 minutes back.
“I don’t know what happened today. My legs just wouldn’t respond,” Fernandez said.
The five came into the finish after clearing the category-two Alto de Azcarate and super-motivated Etxebarria held off Bayarri, who moved into third overall. Lotto’s Mario Aerts lead the second group at 51 seconds back.
Stage results, 5a, Villabona to Elgoibar:
1. David Etxebarria (Sp), Euskaltel, 2:40:49 (35.071 kph
2. Gonzalo Bayarri (Sp), Jazztel
3. Michael Boogerd (Ned), Rabobank
4. Aitor Osa (Sp), iBanesto.com
5. Cadel Evans (Aus), Mapei, all s.t.
6. Mario Aerts (B), Lotto, at 0:51
7. Alexandre Vinoroukov (Kaz), Telekom.
8. Stefano Garzelli (I), Mapei
9. Michael Rasmussen (Den), CSC-Tiscali.
10. Wladimir Belli (I), Fassa Bortolo, all s.t.
OVERALL RESULTS TO COME