Darryl Impey finished off the work of his Orica-GreenEDGE team-mates in perfect style to win the second stage of the 2013 Tour of the Basque Country.
The South African was led to the line by then race leader, Simon Gerrans, the winner of yesterday’s opening stage.
Another nerve-jangling descent capped a largely uneventful day that saw a three-strong breakaway splinter in the final 11km.
Impey’s victory was the second time he has won the second stage of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco; the first occasion came in 2012.
He said: “It was a bit like last year, really. The whole team was involved with the result. Christian [Meier] and [Michael] Albasini did all of the early work. Wes [Wesley Sulzberger], Clarkey [Simon Clarke] and Pieter Weening did their bit in the final. From there, I had two of the fastest guys in the race as my lead out.”
Popular veteran, Jens Voight (Radioshack-Leopard), king of the mountains leader, Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), and Lampre-Merida’s Andrea Mallori, saw their lead reduced to about a minute with 20km to go.
Four kilometres later, Britain’s Steve Cummings (BMC Racing), put in an extended turn at the head of the peloton, further diminishing the advantage of the breakaway.
Txurruka interrupted the escapees’ rhythm by sprinting for points, but after a wave of apology, the three confederates pushed on together.
Behind them, a crash in the peloton, one that briefly unseated German champion, Fabian Wegmann (Garmin-Sharp), failed to halt its momentum.
Tanel Kangert (Astana) cut a sleek figure in the all-white kit of Estonian national champion, and was soon joined by the Team Sky duo of Vasil Kiryienka and Xabi Zandio.
A new urgency gripped the peloton as Mallori dropped Voight at the foot of the final climb of the day, the third category Alto de Zaldarian.
With a dangerous descent on drying roads after the summit, the bunch did its best to shut down Mallori before the summit, but succeeded only in hauling back Voight, who fought to resist his capture even when the catch was inevitable.
A repeat of yesterday’s nerve-shredding descent ensued, conducted this time on roads that, while wider, were rain-slicked and cracked.
Jean Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and José Herrada (Movistar) were initially the bravest, breaking clear of the bunch with breathtaking skill to capture Mallori, but no sooner had they done so than world road race champion, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), and Team Sky’s Sergio Henao, chased them down.
A break, however small, by riders of such quality, sparked renewed pressure from the peloton, which regrouped at the finish of a pell mell descent for two flat kilometres to the finish.
Orica-GreenEDGE tore through Vitoria at the head of the field, with Gerrans putting in a superb effort before finally giving way to team-mate, Michael Matthews.
Matthews put in a brief stint on the front before the sprint began in earnest. Franceso Gavazzi (Astana), the new race leader, was Impey’s only real challenger, but was comfortably beaten by the end of a short sprint.
Vuelta al Pais Vasco 2013 – stage two – result
1) Daryl Impey (RSA) – Orica-GreenEDGE – 4.32.31
2) Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) – Astana – ST
3) Angel Vicioso (ESP) – Katusha
4) Daniele Ratto (ITA) – Cannondale
5) Dennis Vanendert (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
6) Michele Kreder (NED) – Garmin-Sharp
7) Daniele Peitropolli (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
8) Egoitz Garcia (ESP) – Cofidis
9) Maciej Paterski (POL) – Cannondale
10) Peter Velits (SLO) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep