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Yauheni Hutarovich (Française des Jeux) came out of nowhere to win stage 2 of the 2010 Vuelta a España on Sunday.
Hutarovich free-lanced his way to victory ahead of three better-known sprinters — race leader Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) — in the 173km race from Alcalá de Guadaíra to the coastal community of Marbella.
Even Hutarovich confessed a bit of disbelief at his victory.
“Sure, it was a little bit of a surprise – it’s my third grand tour and it’s just my first grand-tour stage victory,” he said. “I wanted to come here to win a stage, so of course I am very content.
“I couldn’t believe when I was going to win — I could see Cav’ had some problems in his sprint. I saw it was my moment and I went 100 percent.”
Cavendish retained the overall lead.
Stage 2 took the peloton south-southeast across a ridge of hills that climbed to a maximum altitude of 750 meters (2,461 feet). Despite the hilly profile, there was just one ranked climb along the way — the Category 3 Alto de Pruna, a 5.6km ascent with an average grade of 5.18 percent that peaked at 74km.
As in Saturday’s opener, Sunday’s stage began with a crash — Dario Cataldo (Quick Step) laid it down in the neutral zone but remounted and rejoined the bunch in time for the racing to begin.
A four-man escape tries its luck
The break of the day went away almost immediately. Javier Ramírez (Andalucia Cajasur), Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis), Johnnie Walker (Footon-Servetto) and Mickael Delage (Omega Pharma-Lotto) had a minute on the field at the 6km mark and quickly set about extending it, to nearly five minutes at 20km.
Forty kilometers later the quartet had the same advantage, with HTC in charge back in the bunch. Delage was the race leader on the road, having started the day in 41st place, just 17 seconds out of first.
Buffaz gained a measure of distinction for himself, too, but not the sort he would have liked. He crashed out of the break, snapped a collarbone and became the first rider to abandon the 2010 Vuelta.
Delage took the KOM ahead of Ramírez and Walker, and the three riders went back to work, nudging their margin out to 5:50 with 85km to race. Back in the bunch, HTC’s Martin Velits hit the deck, but was quickly back up and riding.
Then the break’s advantage began crumbling. With 63km to go the leaders held less than three minutes on the chase. Delage decided to try his luck alone and briefly grabbed a small lead that his companions casually erased.
Meanwhile, the chase was closing in. With 44km to go the gap was under a minute and Marcos Garcia (Xacobeo Galicia) bridged it. So it was a foursome that crested the final hump and tackled the 38km descent to the finish in Marbella, with the peloton about a half-minute behind.
The pursuit closes in on the descent
The break stretched its advantage on the descent, to 47 seconds. But the chase began nibbling away at its deficit, closing to within a half-minute once more as the escapees hit 20km to go.
This time it was Walker trying a solo move — he moved ahead of his three companions as the chase loomed just 16 seconds behind with as many kilometers to race. Katusha’s Alexandr Kolobnev overcooked a corner and shot into the ditch, apparently without serious injury.
Lampre was moving forward in the chase, hoping to spring Alessandro Petacchi free for the stage win. One by one the escapees were reeled in and with 12km to go, it was gruppo compatto.
The sprinters’ teams faced a head wind as they set about arranging their trains for the finale. HTC and Lampre were in the driver’s seat with 9km to go. The finale was mostly straight, barring a slight right-hand fade with 200 meters to go. Barriers narrowed the lane toward the end, too.
With 3km to go Cofidis edged forward and Petacchi was running short of helpers. Grega Bole lost contact and Angelo Furlan flatted, but Danilo Hondo was still there. Then Liquigas stepped up for Daniele Benatti with just over 2km to race.
Cavendish was a man down, too — Bernhard Eisel was at the back of the bunch, apparently cramping, and as Garmin’s Tyler Farrar locked onto Petacchi’s wheel Cav’ did likewise to Farrar.
Farrar punched it, Cavendish followed — but it was Hutarovich hitting the line first for a very surprising victory indeed from the lanterne rouge of the 2009 Tour de France. The race leader hung on for second with Farrar third.
“I am a sprinter and I live for the sprints,” said an elated Hutarovich. “I like sprints with curves, technical. … Now I am finding my way among the big sprinters. To beat Cavendish, who is the best sprinter in the world, is something exceptional.”
- 1. Yauheni Hutarovich, Française des Jeux, 4:35:41
- 2. Mark Cavendish, HTC-Columbia, s.t.
- 3. Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Transitions, s.t.
- 4. Alessandro Petacchi, Lampre-Farnese Vini, s.t.
- 5. Antonio Lea Cardoso Manuel, Footon-Servetto-Fuji, s.t.
- 1. Mark Cavendish, HTC-Columbia, 4:49:35
- 2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov, HTC-Columbia, at 0:12
- 3. Peter Velits, HTC-Columbia, at 0:12
- 4. Tejay Van Garderen, HTC-Columbia, at 0:12
- 5. Matthew Harley Goss, HTC-Columbia, at 0:12
- 1. Mickael Delage, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 3pts