By Andrew Hood
The final time trial in the 42nd Vuelta al Pais Vasco turned out to be a 15-km victory parade for home boy Aitor Osa, who sealed a dramatic victory Friday just down the road from his home in Elgoibar.
The Basque cycling fans came out in their best orange to bring homethe first local overall victory at this race since Inigo Cuesta in 1998.
Long riding in the shadow of his younger brother, Osa tore apart therace in a shattering attack in the cold, wet third stage. Osa’s iBanesto.com squad protected his lead through the final climbing stages and the 27-year-old withstood an aggressive attack lead by Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Cadel Evans (Mapei) and David Etxebarria (Euskaltel) in Friday’s morning stage.
“There was still a lot of fighting left today. They really came afterme, but now I am stronger than I’ve ever been before,” said Osa, who rodesafely in the time trial to finish 10th at 55 seconds back. “I knew I coulddo well here, but I never imagined I could win. This will change my attitudeabout future races.”
Etxebarria, meanwhile, let everyone know he’s the strongest rider atthe moment, winning the afternoon climbing time trial to go along withhis morning victory to finish second overall in Spain’s second most importantstage race.”These two stage victories are more important than second-place,” saidEtxebarria. “I tried many days to win a stage and I was very tired in thetime trial, but I took some risks when I heard (Gonzalo) Bayarri was closingthe gap.”Bayarri finished second to Etxebarria in the time trial and took thefinal spot on the podium. Cadel Evans (Mapei) was hoping for a strong timetrial to go with his impressive performance in the morning climbing stage,when he attacked hard and finished fifth. He was poised to jump into thetop-three podium, but finished 11th in the time trial at nearly a minuteback and dropped to sixth overall.Etxebarria, Boogerd and Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom) are the strongestcoming out of this demanding and challenging Vuelta al Pais Vasco, markedby rain and cold in every stage except the first one. More than half theriders did not finish.Etxebarria said he’s already thinking about Liege-Bastogne-Liege, wherehe’s finished second in 2000 and third in 2001.”This race is great for my confidence going into Liege. It’s been onmy mind all year. I want to win there more than anything,” Etxebarria said.
Stage 5b, Elgoibar-Elgoibar, individual time trial
1. David Etxebarria (Sp), Euskaltel, 15.2 km in 24:54:, (36.606 kph)
2. Gonzalo Bayarri (Sp), Jazztel, at 0:03;
3. Michael Boogerd (Ned), Rabobank, at 0:19
4. Juan Miguel Mercado (Sp), iBanesto.com, at 0:20
5. Andrea Noe (I), Mapei, at 0:21
6. Mario Aerts (B), Lotto, at 0:24
7. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), Telekom, at 0:26
8. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, at 0:40
9. Stefano Garzelli (I), Mapei, at 0:41
10. Aitor Osa (Sp), iBanesto.com, at 0:55
11. Cadel Evans (Aus), Mapei, at 0:55
26. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Rabobank, at 1:53
57. Tyler Hamilton (USA), CSC-Tiscali, at 3:13.
1. Aitor Osa (Sp), ibanesto.com, 18 hours, 4 minutes, 53 seconds;
2. David Etxebarria (Sp), Euskaltel, at 2:36
3. Gonzalo Bayarri (Sp), Jazztel, at 2:53
4. Michael Boogerd (Ned), Rabobank, at 3:09
5. Mario Aerts (B), Lotto, at 3:54
6. Cadel Evans (Aus), Mapei, at 3:55
7. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), Telekom, at 4:07
8. Andrea Noe (B), Lotto, at 4:12
9. Stefano Garzelli (I), Mapei, at 4:22
10. Samuel Sanchez (Sp), Euskaltel, at 4:46.
41. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Rabobank, at 21:37
63. Tyler Hamilton (USA), CSC-Tiscali, at 58:11