Vuelta a Espaņa - Albasini doubles up for HTC

Fri, 02 Sep 15:37:00 2011

Switzerland's Michael Albasini took HTC-Highroad's Vuelta tally to two with a fine stage 13 win from a breakaway in the Galician mountains.

Michael Albasini HTC-Highroad Vuelta a Espana 2011 - 0

Albasini proved the strongest of 20 riders that broke clear on the testing 158km stage from Sarria to Ponferrada in north-west Spain.

The 30-year-old's win was the biggest of his career - and his team's second in this year's Vuelta despite the early withdrawal of sprinting trump card Mark Cavendish.

Four days after Germany's Tony Martin posted HTC's first victory in the time trial at Salamanca, Albasini gave another boost to the soon-to-be-folding American-based team.

The Swiss all-rounder out-sprinted Italy's Eros Capecchi (Liquigas) and Spanish stage five winner Daniel Moreno (Katusha) to take the spoils at the end of a tricky stage that included two Cat.1 and three Cat.3 climbs before a tense run off to the finish.

The peloton crossed the finish line one minute 32 seconds down, with Britain's Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) defending his overall race lead ahead of two back-to-back summit finishes before Monday's second rest day.

"I had big sensations today," said Albasini, winner of last year's Tour of Britain. "I'm so happy I won the stage. I was in the right group and I knew it was possible once we got over the last mountain."

After a frantic start to the stage that saw defending champion Vincenzo Nibali break clear on an early descent to pick up six bonus seconds on the first intermediate sprint, the 20-man group formed before the third climb of the day, the Cat.1 Alto de Folgueiras de Aigas.

The break - which included the likes of 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (Geox), stage 12 winner David Moncoutie (Cofidis), Irishman Nicolas Roche (Ag2R) and four Euskaltel riders - never had more than three minutes on the Team Sky-controlled peloton, but likewise never looked in danger of being reeled in.

Nibali and Swedish revalation Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) caused the red jersey a bit of worry when they broke clear of the bunch on the descent of the demanding Cat.1 Puerto de Alcares, which was being used for the first time in Vuelta history.

Unflustered riding on the front of the pack by Wiggins' Sky team-mates, however, saw the splinter group reeled in before the final third-category climb of the day.

With both Roche and Moreno, as well as fellow escapees Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel) and Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank), all within four minutes of the summit of the GC, the peloton combined well to drive the gap south of the two-minute mark.

Besides Albasini, Moreno was the big winner of the day as the Spaniard rose to ninth in the GC, 1:52 down on Wiggins. Moncoutie also seized the lead of the king of the mountains competition. The French veteran now leads Matteo Montaguti (Ag2R) by 12 points as he continues his quest for a fourth consecutive polka dot title in Madrid.

Nibali, thanks to the six bonus seconds won at the first intermediate sprint, rose above Sky's Chris Froome to second in the overall standings, just four seconds behind the red jersey.

The Vuelta continues on Saturday with the demanding 173km stage 14 from Astorga to La Farrapona, which culminates with a summit finish at Lagos de Somiedo.

Vuelta a Espaņa : Stage 13

Felix Lowe / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account