Daryl Impey dashed to victory in Tuesday’s second stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco to keep GreenEdge’s sensational debut season on track.
Impey crossed the line ahead of teammate Allan Davis, with Davide Appollonio (Sky) crossing the line third in the six-climb, 165.7km stage from Gueñes to Vitoria.
“I didn’t come into today’s stage expecting to win,” said Impey. “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.”
The victory is GreenEdge’s seventh on the season – all of them in WorldTour or historic tour events – including the Tour Down Under and Milan-San Remo with Simon Gerrans, the team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico, and two stages and the overall at the Volta a Catalunya with Michael Albasini.
Overnight leader José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) crossed the tape fourth to retain the race leader’s jersey.
Most of the big GC contenders finished with the lead group, including Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). With no time bonuses, most of the top favorites are all knotted up on the same time.
Defending champion Andreas Klöden lost more than five minutes in Monday’s opener while Chris Horner, last year’s runner-up and the 2010 winner, struggled to keep pace on a pair of stage-closing third-category climbs on Tuesday.
Five riders pulled away early to form the main breakaway. In the group were Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-Big Mat), Mads Christensen (Saxo Bank), Jerome Pineau (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Gabriele Bosisio (Utelsilnord) and Julián Sánchez Pimienta (Caja Rural).
Caja Rural is promising to go on the attack daily, in part to gain the attention of Vuelta a España organizers with the hopes of earning a wildcard bid to the Spanish tour later this season.
GreenEdge, Movistar and Rabobank all collaborated in the closing hour to reduce a three-minute gap, putting fresh legs on the front to control the stage and set up the mass gallop coming into Vitoria.
The Basque Country tour continues Wednesday with the 164km third stage from Vitoria to the Cat. 1 summit finale above Eibar on the Arrate climb. Sánchez has won the stage two years running and it should provide the best glimpse of who’s going to be up for making a run for the GC.