After a day of hard rain and dense fog in the hills of the Basque country, the winner of Stage Two of the Tour of Basque Country didn’t come from the breakaway, which was swept up with 13.3 km to go and it wasn’t one of the sprint specialists.
Instead GreenEdge lead-out rider Daryl Impey somehow found himself too far ahead rounding a corner entering the final kilometer of the race and decided to press his advantage, outrunning the peloton to cross the line in first place.
Impey’s teammate Allan Davis, whom Impey was supposed to tow until the final 250 meters, still took second in the runner-up sprint, but somehow all the fastest riders in the peloton couldn’t catch the lone GreenEdge lead-out man before the line.
“I didn’t come into today’s stage expecting to win,” Impey told velonation.com. “We were riding for Allan. When I found myself with the gap, I decided to take it. The boys worked so well early in the race and held it all together in the sprint. It’s a massive victory—definitely the biggest moment in my career.
“We went through that [final] corner really quickly, and I guess I just went a bit quicker than the rest,” Impey continued. “Sprinting involves a lot of luck, so I was happy to take a chance with the gap. I was lucky to have enough left in the tank to hold it to the line. I kept thinking the field would blow past me in the final 100 meters, but they never did.”
José Joaquin Rojas of Movistar finished fourth, good enough to keep him in the leader’s jersey for at least on more stage.
Bad Day for a Bike Race
Stage Two, 165.7 km from Güeñes to Vitoria-Gasteiz, offered six categorized climbs: five Cat 3s and a Cat 2, but nothing really severe, with a fast decent from the final climb to a brief flat before the finish.
The day dawned ugly, looking more like Belgium than northern Spain. Rain lashed the riders through the first half of the race, while temperatures hovered around 50 degrees. Luckily the roads dried by the time they made their final high-speed descent toward the finish line when speeds topped 70 kph, but dense fog replaced the rain—much safer, but not very comfortable for the riders.
Numerous aborted attacks were reabsorbed before a trio of riders escaped around the eight–km mark: Cédric Pinot (FDJ), Jérôme Pineau (Omega), and Christensen (Saxo Bank). Four km later Gabriele Bosisio (Utensilnord Named) and Julian Sanchez (Caja Rural) set off in chase, catching the leaders by kilometer 32. This quintet opened a lead of seven minutes but by the base of the last of the six climbs of the day, they were caught by the peloton, which wanted a sprint finish again.
Shortly after catching the break, Astana’s Alexsandr Dyachenko attacked, but got nowhere. After Dyachenko got caught, Liquigas rider Dominik Nerz made an effort, staying away for only half a kilometer before being swept up.
Astana took the lead on this final descent with five riders in a row hitting a maximum speed of 73 kph (45 mph) and holding control into the final two kilometers, when GreenEdge took over at the front. It might have been a timing error that left Impey all alone ahead of the field coming into the final kilometer, but he didn’t waste the opportunity. It was the sprinters whose timing was fatally off; the peoloton was right on his heels crossing the line, but he still held on for the stage win.
Major Conflict Certain in Stage Three
However Stage Three ends, it won’t be with a bunch sprint: A mountaintop finish after a Cat 1 climb closes out this 164-km stage from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Eibar-Arrate, with six other climbs along the way: four Cat 2s, a Cat 3 and another Cat 1. A serious selection is possible here, particularly with two Cat 1s and a cat 2 in the final 35 km.
If Stage Three doesn’t produce a clear leader, stage Four, with another Cat 1 mountaintop finish, surely will. But Stage Three looks like the Queen Stage of the 2012 Tour de Pais Basque. Fireworks for sure will explode all over that final climb.