Mikel Iturria snatched victory from his former breakaway collaborators on stage 11 of the 2019 Vuelta a España.
The Euskadi Basque Country – Murias rider attacked the 12-strong breakaway from 25km out, soloing to the stage win as the chasers failed to get organised and successfully reel him back in, despite having him in their sights with a kilometre to go.
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Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) led the remnants of the breakaway across the line six seconds later, with Lawson Craddock (EF Education First) in third.
The peloton finished more than 18 minutes behind the escapees, the GC riders taking a day off after yesterday’s time trial and with many more important days ahead.
How it happened
Stage 11 was a day designed for the breakaway, with multiple attacks being launched as soon as the flag dropped. Five riders initially gained a small gap straight away, before 11 riders started to go clear after 12km.
Among the escapees were Lawson Craddock (EF Education First) who rode well in yesterday’s time trial, the current KOM leader Ángel Madrazo (Burgos BH) and Gorka Izagirre (Astana). They had a gap of two minutes with 163km to go.
After another 10km the gap had grown to more than four minutes, as Benjamin Thomas (Groupama-FDJ) and Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) bridged the gap and joined the front group.
Madrazo defended his polka dot jersey, being the first to the summit of the Col d’Osquich, with Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data) and Izagirre sweeping up the rest of the points as the counter ticked under 100km to go.
Up the second category Col d’Ispeguy, Madrazo was dropped with 57km remaining, as attacks came in from Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) and Gorka Izagirre. Aranburu led Izagirre over the summit, with Craddock third. The Spanish pair used their advantage to ride off the front on the descent, with the American Craddock soon joining them with 45km to go.
As the gap between the escapees started to decrease, Damien Howson (Mitchelton-Scott) and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Dimension Data) bridged across, with Howson taking the summit of the Col de Otxondo.
4km after the summit of the final climb of the day, the breakaway group came back together, with 31km to go.
With the elastic snapped, and the peloton trailing by more than 15 minutes, Mikel Iturria (Euskadi Basque Country – Murias) attacked with 25km to go, peeling off the front of the group.
With 12km to go and Iturria opening up a 30 second buffer over his former collaborators, Lastra attacked with Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) also going clear after his strong showing in stage 10’s time trial.
Ghebreigzabhier then countered, dragging some more riders up the road to Cavagna, who was then dropped, as Iturria’s advantage came down to 15 seconds with 9km to go.
Lawson Craddock then rode up to the chase group of four behind Iturria, his gap coming down to 13 seconds with 7.5km to the finish line.
Iturria went through the intermediate sprint with 6km to go, his gap holding at 12 seconds.
With 3km to go, Iturria’s gap was still above 10 seconds as the chasers began to look at each other.
Howson then attacked around a roundabout with 2km to go as the gap shrank to eight seconds.
On a long, curving road under 2km to go, Iturria appeared up ahead, providing the carrot the chasers needed to bring Iturria back to within touching distance.
Howson belatedly tried to counter and bridge across but Iturria had done enough, sailing through the final 500m with enough of a gap to give him time to zip up his jersey and celebrate across the line as he took his first ever Grand Tour victory.
Vuelta a España 2019, stage 11: Saint-Palias to Urdax-Dantxarinea (180km)
1. Mikel Iturria (Esp) Euskadi Basque Country – Murias, in 4-36-44
2. Jonathan Lastra (Esp) Caja Rural -Seguros RGA, at six seconds
3. Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First
4. Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
5. François Bidard (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, all at same time
6. Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri) Dimension Data, at 9s
7. Benjamin Thomas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 12s
8. Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Katusha-Alpecin
9. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Astana
10. Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, all at same time
General classification after stage 11
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 41-00-48
2. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 1-52
3. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 2-11
4. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 3-00
5. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 3-05
6. Carl Frederik Hagen (Nor) Lotto-Soudal, at 4-59
7. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 5-42
8. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, at 5-49
9. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida, at 6-07
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb, at 6-25