Michael Albasini of HTC-Highroad, winner of Stage 13 of the 2011 Vuelta in Ponferrada this afternoon, says that its team will continue to fight for victories ahead of it being dissolved at the end of this season. There's been no news as yet of who the 30-year-old will be riding for next season, but if he's yet to finalise a contract, getting a first Grand Tour stage win on his CV won't harm his negiating position.
The Swiss rider, who has been combative throughout the race, won the sprint from a group of 20 riders, the remains of what had earlier been a breakaway group more than 30 strong. Although HTC-Highroad lost Matt Goss and Mark Cavendish early on in the race, it now has two stage wins, with Tony Martin taking the individual time trial on Monday in Salamanca.
"We've been trying really hard to get stage wins here and we'll be hunting for wins all the way to the end of the season." said Albasini following today's stage.
"It was a difficult day," he continued. "There was one first category climb that was very tough, but I got over that okay and then I felt very confident for the sprint. I made sure that I controlled all the different attacks because I knew I was one of the fastest guys there."
Sports director Jan Schaffrath said: "So far this tour he was in a break two times but he got nothing. Today he went again and it worked.
"I thought he might be tired from the other attempts and also the great work he did on the front yesterday for John [Degenkolb]," Schaffrath continued, "but the break went early and he was so focused.
"He looked good the whole day over the two first category climbs and we knew when he got over the second one that he was in with a chance. He's a good sprinter so it was perfect for him out of a small break."
Vincenzo Nibali on the attack (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
Afterwards, however, Nibali was keener to talk about his team mate Eros Capecchi, who finished second to Albasini, following what his team leader called a "very courageous" performance, adding, "every day he works hard for me and today he found the way to go in the breakaway and fight for the stage win."
At one point, Nibali managed to get nearly a minute ahead of Wiggins, the Liquigas-Cannondale rider following an attack initiated by Fredrik Kessiakof of Astana, who had started the day in third place overall.
"Kessiakoff attacked in the downhill of the Ancares but I didn’t take any risk to go to the front," revealed Nibali.
The riders involved in that break group were gradually chased down by Team Sky, with Nibali acknowledging, "I never thought that we could make it to the finish."
The defending champion, who picked up 6 bonus seconds at the first intermediate sprint today, enough to lift him into second place, added: "Now we have two days in which it’s possible to win the Vuelta. I’ve seen Wiggins and Mollema pedalling really well.”
Bradley Wiggins on the descent (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
Wiggins, for his part, seemed unfazed by Nibali's challenge today. “I'm pretty relaxed about how things went today and it was another good performance from the team," he insisted.
“Yes, Nibali made up six seconds by attacking on that first descent and winning the sprint, but I didn't see the point in wasting energy unnecessarily and taking big risks just to try and defend a few seconds," he continued.
“Fair credit to him for having a go, but I don't think the race will have been won or lost today - the time gains or losses in the mountains days to come are going play a much bigger role in how this race is decided," Wiggins added.
“I'm really happy to still be in the jersey though, and it's a huge honour to be able to pull it on each morning and as I've said before, we'll be doing all we can to defend it to Madrid,” he concluded.
One jersey did change hands today, with Cofidis rider David Moncoutié, winner of the mountains classification in the last three editions of the Vuelta, getting back into the blue and white polka dot number he has pretty much made his own.
David Moncoutié gets his jersey back (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
It took a couple of goes, however, for the Frenchman to shake off the man who had started the day in that jersey, AG2R-La Mondiale's Matteo Montaguti, as Moncoutié explained afterwards.
“I’m very tired tonight because I absolutely wanted to make the breakaway," he said. "I fought since km 0 and I’ve made it. In the first breakaway, I was with Montaguti who was defending the polka dot jersey.
"He was not in the second one but I didn’t manage to get the maximum of points up for grabs because some other riders were sprinting against me. It’s a pity. I haven’t taken enough of a lead but I’ll wear the jersey at least tomorrow. I hope to recover from my efforts and to defend the jersey.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.