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55th GP Llodio - 1.3
Spain, May 30, 2004
Etxebarria remains at Liberty and keeps the dogs at bay
By Martin Hardie in Llodio
Euskaltel's Unai Etxebarria held off a Liberty Seguros-driven bunch over the final four Cat. 3 climbs of the G.P. Llodio to take his second win of the season and to reinforce Euskaltel's current domination during the recent run of races in the Iberian Peninsula.
How it unfolded
The race had started early and with more than a little drizzle greeting the riders as they left Llodio for the 175.5 km route. Unai Etxebarria asked me before the start if I had come to see them fall off in the rain. "I hope not," I replied and after the race when I reminded him of this he could only say "Impressionante eh - I didn't fall off!".
The first encounter of the day was the Cat. 2 Alto de Altube (km 42.2) which drags up from the Nervion Valley to the Plateau of Alava. The higher the riders climbed the heavier the surrounding fog became. Visible at the side of the road to greet them near the summit was one Joseba Beloki (without a bike) and the Basque Country's President Juan Jose Ibarretxe (with a bike).
By the top of the steeper ramps, the peloton had split into two distinct groups. But this was only the beginning. The route then headed out through Murgia and then looped around via Jugo back to Murgia, the town that hosts the popular Ciclismo Euskadi training camps. Through this stretch, the fog and the narrow winding farm roads provided effective cover for riders to start attacking. At the 61 kilometre mark the front of the race had three distinct groups - one of eight leaders, a second of ten and the third numbering thirty - the first and the third separated by around a minute.
As they descended back down into the Nervion Valley via Orduna the front two groups merged, making a large working break that managed to hold an advantage of over 45 seconds for the next 40 kms of the race. Prominent where the Euskaltel's including Gorka Gonzalez, Iñaki Isasi, Mikel Artexte, Antxon Luengo, and Unai Etxebarria. One rider who continued at every opportunity to put in a big effort all day long was Costa Almeira-Paternina's Francisco Lara. For much of the race whenever there was a move of any sort attempted, the race radio called Lara's number as one of the protagonists.
After the first of three crossings of the Garate, Liberty Seguros Director Marino Lejarreta called back his three riders embedded in the leading group. The one man who Lejarreta wanted ahead, Roberto Heras, was still more than 40 seconds behind. Soon the front of the chasing peloton had all of the Liberty team on the front and within a few kilometres Liberty drew the break back in at the town of Gordexola.
The route then headed back to Llodio for the start of two 18.2 circuits that included the climbs of the Malkuartu and the Garate - 36 rolling kilometres over what constituted four steep, winding, third category puertos. The first Malkuartu commences not far out of Llodio and consists of a narrow one lane forest road that averages 5.7% but has ramps of much more as it makes its path up through the dense, wet forest. The descent on the other side is nothing but treacherous - claiming at least three victims in its two encounters.
As the first climb of the Malkuartu started Unai Etxebarria and Samuel Sanchez made what would become the move of the day. They hadn't been content to sit in for any part of the race and were not going to change things now. They were soon joined by Pablo Lastras (Illes Baleares) and Jonathon Gonzalez (Costa Almeira-Paternina). Over the Malkuartu and particularly down the other side, the Euskaltel pair kept the quartet away. The gap at the bottom was around 25 seconds, much the same as it would be on the next and final passing.
On the second time up the climb they shed Lastras and then Gonzalez who crashed on one of the final hairpins as Etxebarria and Sanchez descended like demons on the steep, twisting, and slippery slopes of the Malkuartu. The orange duo reached the bottom in Okondo with little more than a twenty second advantage on the peloton. They needed to remain at liberty from the barking dogs of Heras and co. for for another ten kilometres and one final climb of the Garate in order to seal a win for the local squad.
Over the next rolling four kilometres, Liberty Seguros drove the front of the bunch to try and bring their captain Roberto Heras to the front for the Garate's short but 10 percent slopes. They all but succeeded on the first part of the climb and it was then that Etxebarria, getting the word over the airwaves from his namesake, David, stomped on the pedals one more time to continue solo to the top.
At the summit and with the downhill to the edge of Llodio and then through the streets to the finishing straight a mere 4.6 kms Unai held his advantage of not much more than 5 seconds to scream up the main drag and take the win. Behind Perdiguero (Saunier Duval) and Carrara (Lampre) took the primary bunch positions for second and third.
Images by Martin Hardie
1 Unai Etxebarria (Ven) Euskaltel-Euskadi 4.03.19 (43.277 km/h) 2 Miguel A M.Perdiguero (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.01 3 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre 4 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Liberty Seguros 5 Ion Del Rio (Spa) Costa Almeria-Paternina 6 David Etxebarria (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 7 Pedro Arreitunandia (Spa) Cafes Baque 8 Félix Rafael Cardenas (Col) Cafes Baque 9 Mikel Artetxe (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 10 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 11 David Herrero (Spa) Costa Almeria-Paternina 12 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.14 13 Francisco José Lara (Spa) Costa Almeria-Paternina 0.15 14 Mikel Pradera (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto 0.46 15 Aitor Osa (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto 0.51 16 Pablo Lastras (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto 17 Unai Elorriaga (Spa) Cafes Baque 1.34 18 Aitor Hernandez (Spa) Lpr Piacenza Srl 19 Gorka Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 20 Aketza Peña (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.38 21 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Lampre 22 Sergio Barbero (Ita) Lampre 23 Koldo Gil (Spa) Liberty Seguros 24 Xabier Zandio (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto 2.56 25 Markel Irizar (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 3.28 26 José Alberto Martinez (Spa) Relax-Bodysol 27 Marcos Serrano (Spa) Liberty Seguros 28 Joaquim Lopez (Spa) Costa Almeria-Paternina 29 Rafael Casero (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 5.04 30 Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 31 Daniele Contrini (Ita) Lpr Piacenza Srl 5.46 32 Simone Bertoletti (Ita) Lampre 5.49 33 Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita) Lampre 34 Jonathan Gonzalez (Spa) Costa Almeria-Paternina 6.57 35 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Lampre 6.58 36 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Relax-Bodysol 37 Alvaro Gonzalez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 38 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 39 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Lpr Piacenza Srl 40 Ricardo Serrano (Spa) Cafes Baque 41 Wim De Vocht (Bel) Relax-Bodysol 42 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 43 Lander Euba (Spa) Costa Almeria-Paternina 44 David De La Fuente (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 8.18 Mountains classification 1 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 21 pts 2 Francisco José Lara (Spa) Costa Almeria-Paternina 18 3 Unai Etxebarria (Ven) Euskaltel-Euskadi 16 4 Koldo Gil (Spa) Liberty Seguros 8 5 Jonathan Gonzalez (Spa) Costa Almeria-Paternina 8 6 Gorka Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 5 7 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Liberty Seguros 4 8 Pedro Arreitunandia (Spa) Cafes Baque 2 9 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 2 10 David Etxebarria (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1 11 Félix Rafael Cardenas (Col) Cafes Baque 1 Metas Volantes classification 1 Jonathan Gonzalez (Spa) Costa Almeria-Paternina 3 pts 2 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 3 3 Francisco José Lara (Spa) Costa Almeria-Paternina 2 4 Unai Etxebarria (Ven) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1 5 Rafael Casero (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 1 Special sprints classification 1 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 3 pts 2 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Lampre 2 3 Félix Rafael Cardenas (Col) Cafes Baque 1 Teams classification 1 Euskaltel-Euskadi 12.09.59 2 Costa De Almeria-Paternina 0.15 3 Cafes Baque 1.34 4 Liberty Seguros 1.51 5 Illes Balears-Banesto 2.26 6 Lampre 3.15 7 Saunier Duval-Prodir 12.01 8 Team L.P.R.-Piacenza Management SRL 14.16 9 Relax-Bodysol 17.22
2003 Juan Fuentes (Spa) Saeco 2002 Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) iBanesto.com 2001 Juan J De Los Angeles (Spa) 2000 Miguel A. M. Perdiguero (Spa) 1999 Marco Velo (Ita) 1998 Sergej Smetanine (Rus) 1997 José Rodriguez-Garcia (Spa) 1996 David Etxebarria (Spa) 1995 Marino Alonso (Spa) 1994 Asiat Saitov (Rus) 1993 Miguel-Angel Martinez (Spa) 1992 Angel Edo (Spa) 1991 Juan-Carlos Martin (Spa) 1990 Aitor Garmendia (Spa) 1989 Manuel-Jorge Dominguez (Spa) 1988 Carlos Hernandez (Spa) 1987 Pello Ruiz-Cabestany (Spa) 1986 Angel Cgolden (Spa) 1985 Julian Gorospe (Spa) 1984 Alfonso Guttierez (Spa) 1982 Antonio Coll (Spa) 1981 Jorge Ruiz-Cabestany (Spa) 1980 Felipe Yanez (Spa) 1979 Francisco Albelda (Spa) 1978 Ismaél Lejarreta (Spa) 1977 Bernardo Alfonsel (Spa) 1976 Luis-Alberto Ordiales (Spa) 1975 José-Luis Uribezubia (Spa) 1974 Antonio Menendez (Spa) 1973 Javier Elorriaga (Spa) 1972 (3) Domingo Perurena (Spa) 1971 Celestino Padilla (Spa) 1970 (2) Domingo Perurena (Spa) 1969 Domingo Perurena (Spa) 1968 Luis Ocana (Spa) 1967 José-Antonio Momene (Spa) 1966 José-M. Lopez-Rodriguez (Spa) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com