Michael Morkov won stage six of the Vuelta a Espana in a nail-biting finale that saw the day’s solo escapee Tony Martin almost take line honours.
Morkov (Saxo-Tinkoff) won a bunch sprint ahead of second again Maximilliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard). Giro d’Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) maintained his overall lead.
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Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) escaped virtually from the gun of the undulating 177.3km race from Guijuelo to Caceres.
The dual time-trial world champion, who is using the Vuelta to fine-tune his form ahead of next month’s world titles in Italy, was flying with an average speed of around 50km/h in what commentators described as training for his upcoming worlds assault.
Martin slowed after 100km of solid work and many thought he would be reeled-in before the run to line that featured a roundabout with 500m to go.
Orica-GreenEdge, which won a stage with Michael Matthews yesterday, moved to the front of the peloton, as did Argos-Shimano, assembling their respective sprint trains within the final 2km.
But Martin, 28, had resumed his pace and held a lead of around 15 seconds. The German was caught metres before the finish line as spectators held their breath, waiting to see if he would mark a memorable win. The honour went to Morkov, after sprint teams looked too much at each other, in a well-timed surge to the line.
Martin, if nothing else, sent a warning to national team rivals, including Cancellara and Bradley Wiggins, that have identified the elite men’s time-trial world titles as a goal.
Vuelta a Espana 2013, stage six: Guijuelo to Caceres
1. Michael Morkov (Den) Saxo-Tinkoff 3-54-15
2. Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida
3. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard
4. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
5. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM
6. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
7. Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
8. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC
10. Graeme Brown (Aus) Belkin
Overall classification after stage six
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana 22-38-07
2. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard at 3secs
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Saxo-Tinkoff at 8secs
4. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard at 16 secs
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 21 secs
6. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard at 26 secs
7. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky at 28 secs
8. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha at 31 secs
9. Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo-Tinkoff at 38 secs
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff at 42 secs
Tony Martin’s day-long solo escape
Morkov wins, with Martin just on the right
Vuelta a Espana 2013: Related links
Vuelta a Espana 2013: Stage reports
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