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Vuelta13 St.6: Morkov On The Line!

Race Report: Tony Martin was the hero of the day and nearly rode the complete stage solo for what would have been a most unbelievable win. That is if Michael Mørkøv hadn’t passed the brave German within metres of the finish line. Yet another crazy day in Spain!

Omega Pharma – Quick-Step’s World time trial champion; Tony Martin came so close to pulling off the most daring feat of his glorious career. He attacked from the gun and held onto his lead until the last handful of metres into Cáceres. He rode solo for 99% of the 175 kilometres and lost out by the length of a bike.

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Today’s stage 6 course is a strange one, there are no categorised climbs during the 175 kilometres from Guijuelo to Cáceres, but there are no easy sections and is a day for a hard man of the road.

Action from the Gun!
World time trail champion; Tony Martin (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) attacked immediately after the neutralised section, that other well known time trialist Marco Pinotti (BMC) attempted to cross to him but failed and Martin built up a steady lead on a disinterested peloton. After only 20 kilometres the German had over 6 minutes in hand. Pinotti had said before the start: “It is a good day to use as training for the World Time Trial Championships, as tomorrow will be a recovery day.”

Here is the Stage 6 Preview with the Google Maps Fly Through by Global Cycling Network.

Astana were helped by Orica-GreenEdge with the chase work, but no one was trying very hard and Martin’s lead was over 7 minutes after 25 kilometres. After the first hour Tony Martin had covered 45 kilometres and the gap had stabilized at 7:20.

Orica-GreenEdge’s Christian Meier put a big effort in on the front of the bunch bringing the lead down a little to 6:40 after 54 kilometres. Orica-GreenEdge was not letting Martin get too far away and by the 60 Kilometre mark his lead was back to 6 minutes.

The Beginning of the End?
Meier was still pulling the peloton and with 100 kilometres to go Tony Martin had only 5:32.

From then on the peloton slowly but surely pulled the brave man from Omega Pharma – Quick-Step back. After 100 kilometres ridden he had 4 minutes, by 111 it was 3:17 as the races passed through the Intermediate sprint in Grimaldo. Obviously Martin was first, Tyler Farrar was second and Alex Howes third, both from Garmin-Sharp.

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The tail wind was helping everyone to keep the speed high and Martins advantage increased slightly to 3:45. With 40 kilometres to go the lead dropped below 3 minutes and as they entered the third hour of racing the average speed was 44 kph.

The long straight roads travelling south parallel to the Spanish/Portuguese passes through a very dry landscape, made for bulls not for long lone escapes and the peloton could see Martin in the distance as with 25 kilometres to go he had 1.25 and it looked like the writing was written large on the wall.

20 K’s to Go
Tony Martin was still pushing on but with a 1 minute lead he was soon to be caught, behind Orica-GreenEdge, Movistar, Saxo-Tinkoff, Garmin-Sharp and Vacansoleil-DCM all had riders on the front.

All Over for Tony Martin?
Just about all the teams had someone at the head of affairs. Astana had brought overall leader Vincenzo Nibali to the front to keep him out of trouble, riders were pushing forward forcing the peloton to fill the road from one side to the other. When the race hit the big loop round the finish town of Cáceres; Tony Martin put a big effort in to push his lead of 7 seconds up to 20 seconds and coming into the last 5 kilometres he was holding the fast bunch at bay.

As Martin passed under the 4 to go banner he still had 8 seconds. Through the wide city streets the German had found some strength from somewhere and the combined strength of Argos-Shimano and Orica-GreenEdge couldn’t get near him. Garmin put Van Summeren on the front to try to pull back Martin who was looking like he was going to take an unbelievable stage victory.

So Close!
On the final straight Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard), Max Richeze (Lampre-Merida), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and Juan Antonio fleche (Vacansoleil-DCM) burst a gut to close the last metres to a struggling Tony Martin who was on his last legs within spitting distance of the finish line.

At the last possible moment Michael Mørkøv (Saxo-Tinkoff) burst past the others as they swept past Martin who finished 7th, so close but so far. Maximiliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) was second and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) squeezed out sprinter Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) for third.

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“I’m so happy about this win and unbelievably proud. Winning in the Danish national jersey is special but to win in Vuelta a Espana is probably the highlight of my career. I have been waiting for this opportunity and the guys and staff have been so supportive all the way. I just stayed on the wheel of Fabian on the final few hundred meters and I was worried about opening the sprint too soon but it was just perfect,” said a very happy Michael Mørkøv.

After a monstrous effort by Martin, OPQS looks next to a 205.9km Stage 7 on Friday.

Tony Martin said after the stage: “It was an unusual time trial of almost four hours,” Martin said. “I decided to enter the breakaway to try and protect the team. Because even if I was caught, in the final we will also have Gianni Meersman and Andrew Fenn able to do something good in the sprint. So, I decided to go and suddenly I was alone but I took immediately a few minutes. At that point I said, why not? Actually I think it was a good move. I always went pretty good. I have to say the tailwind helped me. Without it, there was no chance to go until the end. In the final the gap was really small. At 10km to go they were really close, and I thought about giving up. But no, I decided to relaunch the action and then I started thinking when they couldnt close the gap that maybe I can do it after all. But, I was tired with 5km to go, the parcour was hard in the final and worked against me with some small uphills, and also the peloton was going full gas. I stayed focused on the finish line. It was a strange feeling. I saw the stripe of the finish line and could hear the peloton behind at the same time. But I was really going all out with my legs. I couldn’t go any faster than I did in the last 200 meters. Unfortunately, they caught me. As usual when you do something like that it’s always bittersweet. From one end you think you could have won with a bit more luck. On the other hand I felt like a winner. Everybody wanted to talk with me after the finish. I had the feeling I did something great and difficult. I also went to the podium for the combativity award. It was really special to be there in front of the public. If I want to think positively it was also great training for the World Championships. The line between doing something super and losing is really thin in this sport, but you have to try. I think it was the first time I did a breakaway like this, especially for so long. Even if I didn’t win I will have it in my memories for a long time.”

Another great day in Spain, keep it PEZ for all the Iberian action to come.

Vuelta a España Stage 6 Result:
1. Michael Morkov (Den) Saxo-Tinkoff in 3:54:15
2. Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida
3. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard
4. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
5. Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM
6. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
7. Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
8. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC
10. Graeme Brown (Aus) Belkin.

Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 6:
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 22:38:07
2. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard at 0:03
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff at 0:08
4. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard at 0:16
5. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team at 0:21
6. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard at 0:26
7. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky at 0:28
8. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha at 0:31
9. Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff at 0:38
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff at 0:42.

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