Eleven years after he last won the Tour of the Basque Country, Germany’s Andreas Klöden (RadioShack) claimed the leader’s jersey of Spain’s second biggest bike race today.
Back then Klöden was tipped as the next Jan Ullrich, a role which he initially lived up to the full by taking wins in Paris-Nice (2000), the Tour of the Basque Country and a bronze medal in the Olympic road race in Sydney.
Those days are long past, but there seems to be life in the old man yet: second place in Paris-Nice just a few weeks back followed by his riding here in Spain has confirmed the veteran RadioShack rider is again in good form.
Today in the unseasonably warm weather that saw the Tour of the Basque Country tackle a hilly 163 kilometre stage from Zumarraga to Lekunberri, Klöden finished second, just a couple of seconds adrift of lone stage winner Vasili Kiryienka (Movistar).
Third in the opening stage plus his runner’s up spot on today was enough to move the German into the overall lead, tied on time with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). On tomorrow’s flattish run through the southern Basque Country, Klöden should be able to defend it comfortably.
The race winning move came at the end of the stage when a group of 21 favourites took off on the final climb. A group sprint looked to be on the cards but the whole pack hesitated a fraction too long when Kiryienka bolted away in the finishing town of Lekunberri.
It was his first win since a mountain breakaway in the Giro 2008, and the Movistar rider was understandably delighted to have brought such a long drought of victories to an end.
The battle for the overall though remains unclear, with more than 20 riders at less than a minute behind Klöden. One potential candidate must now be Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) after he took third on the stage and was looking good on the final climb – his second strong showing in as many days.
Could the Basque Country become Schleck’s first big performance of 2011? Thursday’s ascent of Arrate, the hardest climb of the race, should provide the answer to that.
Tour of the Basque Country, stage two: Zumarraga – Lekunberri 163km
1. Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar 4-06.39
2. Andreas Kloden (Ger) RadioShack at 2 secs
3. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek
4. Chris Sorensen (Den) Saxo Bank
5. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack +2
6. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto
7. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Cervelo
8. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek
9. Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Geox
10. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
21. Steven Cummings (GBr) Team Sky at 2 secs
General Classification after stage two
1. Andreas Kloden (Ger) RadioShack 8-09.23
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
3. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskadi-Euskaltel
4. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack at 1 sec
5. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Cervelo at 6 secs
6. David Lopex Garcia (Spa) Movistar
7. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre
8. Xavier Tondo Volpini (Spa) Movistar
9. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
10. Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar at 9 secs
74. Steven Cummings (GBr) Team Sky at 9 mins 49 secs