Samuel Sanchez wins final TT to wrap up Basque Country GC

Sanchez put down a perfect ride to claim the GC at Vuelta al Pais Vasco

Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) put down a perfect ride to win Saturday’s treacherous 18.9km individual time trial under the rain and erased a nine-second difference to claim the GC at a hotly contested Vuelta al País Vasco in northern Spain.

Sánchez stopped the clock in 28 minutes, 48 seconds to win his second stage during the six-day Basque Country tour. Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) was second-fastest at six seconds off the pace while world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Lotto-Quick Step) was seven seconds slower on a hilly, technical course that favored Sánchez.

Overnight leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) started with a nine-second lead to Sánchez, but rode well in tough conditions to secure second place overall. With two stage wins, Rodríguez held tight to keep the podium spot, a major achievement for “Purito,” who has folded in the past in time trials in major stage races to lose all podium options.

Mollema’s second place in the TT helped push him into third on the podium, another strong showing for the promising Dutch all-rounder who will be riding the Tour de France this summer.

There was no miracle finish for Chris Horner, however, who started the day 10th overall. While strong on Wednesday’s uphill finale at Arrate, he lost time both Thursday and Friday, finishing out of the top-10 overall after winning in 2010 and finishing second to teammate Andreas Kloden last year.

Horner stopped the clock in 21st at 52 seconds off the winning pace,but climbed up one slot on GC from 10th to ninth, at 1:27 behind Sanchez.