Mark Cavendish, who yesterday missed out by a wheel’s length on clinching his maiden Vuelta stage win on his first ever road stage on the Spanish Grand Tour, has revealed that he struggled with the heat as the temperature in Andalucia broke 40 degrees Celsius.
Speaking after the stage, which was won by Yauheni Hutarovich of FDJ, Cevendish said: “It was a very hard day with a lot of tough terrain. It was up, up, up and down, down, down. I’m incredibly lucky that I have such a great team of guys around me. They work so hard. I didn’t have to spend any extra energy at all. But,” he added, “the heat killed me. I was suffering a lot. I only felt better when we came down to the coast.”
Cavendish also revealed that he is still adapting to personnel changes in his team’s line-up for the Vuelta that include a notable absentee from that with which he raced last month’s Tour de France. “This is the first time I’ve raced with Matt Goss. It’s not quite the same as with my usual lead out man Mark Renshaw but we’re learning,” he explained. “We’ll keep trying. There is another bunch sprint possible on stage 5 and a lot of other guys in the team can win stages, not just me, so we’ll keep going.”
Meanwhile, the Belarus rider Hutarovich acknowledged that his stage win, the biggest victory of his career, may have been unexpected to some, he had no doubt in his own abilities. “I’m well aware that this victory must be a surprise for many people but not for me,” insisted the 26-year-old, adding, “I was sure to win a stage during this Vuelta and it came very quickly.”
While the two-time Belarus national champion obviously has supreme self-confidence in his own ability, he has been off the radar of most cycling fans, with his career wins tending to come in minor races, although there are signs now that he is ready to compete at the highest level.
“My stage win at the Tour of Poland was my first one at Pro Tour level,” explained Hutarovich. “It has been instrumental in the process of building my confidence for getting my first win in a Grand Tour. In today’s stage, I decided to follow Cavendish as soon as possible and that’s what I did after being well positioned by my team-mates. I stayed on his wheel and I waited for the right moment to get out. I’m delighted for myself and for my team.”
Like Cavendish, Team Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck, riding his last Grand Tour for the Danish ProTour outfit before moving to the new Luxembourg-based team currently being put together for 2011, also felt the heat, exclaiming: “Damn, it was hot!”
The Tour de France runner-up continued: “For my first day racing in the peloton since the Clasica San Sebastian, I wasn’t feeling too bad, especially uphill. I was surprised. I expected to be worse than that. I heard that many riders were off the back. It was pretty easy to follow the rhythm in the last 25 kilometres but before that, it was very demanding and never quiet.”
A four-man breakaway (pictured below) had got away early in the stage, comprising Johnnie Walker from Footon-Servetto, Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Mickael Delage, local rider Javier Ramirez Abeja of the Andalucía-CajaSur team and Mickael Buffaz of Cofidis, although the latter had to abandon after suffering a suspected broken collarbone in a crash with 100km of the 173km stage remaining.
With HTC-Columbia working hard at the front of the bunch though, the escapees were brought back, but with 2km to go it was Liquigas in their lime green shirts that were towing the peloton along as they sought to set up Daniele Bennati for the sprint.
Afterwards, Team Manager Roberto Amadio said: “The team did a good job but the guys lost each other when the sprint started. They hesitated a bit. But they have good legs and that’s the most important for now. It’s hot. The course was hard today before the bunch sprint. The riders look tired.”
Meanwhile, Johnny Weltz, Directeur Sportif at Garmin-Transitions said that New Zealander “Julian Dean had struggled as he suffered the after-effects of his crash in the warm-up for the team time trial in Seville on Saturday evening, saying “He suffered like Hell.”
Weltz continued: “He managed to hang on in the hill but he got dropped with 45 kilometres to go. He wasn’t the only rider off the back. Others haven’t handled the heat. Without him, we haven’t wanted to work for a bunch sprint finish. We chose to profit from the situation that was offered by teams leading out their sprinter.”
With Tyler Farrar coming home third, that tactic almost paid off, but Weltz claimed that the presence of Hutarovich in the mix had helped scupper Garmin-Transitions’ plans. “We’ve been unlucky to be confronted to a rider who usually doesn’t win at a high level,” he said. “Had Tyler Farrar won today, there was a possibility for taking the red jersey with the time bonus. It’s not quite the day we hoped for.”
Today's Stage 3 takes the peloton 157km from Marbella to Malaga and includes two ascents of the Category 1 Puerto de Leon before a 20km descent to sea level followed by a nasty uphill kick in the final 1.5km.
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