Former Tour of Britain winner Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) claimed his second victory in two days in the Tour of Catalonia, reinforcing his overall lead on the eve of the race’s key mountain stage.
Following yesterday’s solo win, today the Swiss rider was the fastest of a group of around 20 riders that disputed the victory in the town of Girona after a hilly 161 kilometre stage.
Whilst Bradley Wiggins (Sky) proved that his rich vein of form continues when he kept the pace high in the last kilometre, Albasini was unstoppable in the last dash from the line.
The tactics were largely affected by Alejandro Valverde’s crash in the feed zone. The Movistar rider was still a minute back at the foot of the Alt dels Angels, the first category climb close to the finish. A furious chase for Valverde and his team-mates then ensued.
First Garmin-Barracuda worked hard on the lower slopes of the six-kilometre climb (one they know well as many of them are based in Girona), then Omega-Pharma took over for Levi Leipheimer.
On stage seven of this year’s Paris-Nice, Movistar had kept a high pace when Leipheimer crashed three times, ensuring he was eliminated from the running. So today was payback time. Valverde ended up completely isolated, and was still a minute back at the summit. By the time he had descended in to Girona he had lost more than double that, a defeat that leaves the race wide open.
Just before the summit Dan Martin (Garmin-Barracuda) launched an attack from the lead group, down a fast, technical descent. 2004 Giro winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Vancansoleil-DCM’s Matteo Carrara, were the quickest to follow, forming a trio on the treelined drop back to Girona.
Wiggins led the chase alongside Leipheimer, and thanks to Sky the trio were neutralised with two kilometres to go. Wiggins performance shows he remains very much in contention, but Albasini was the fastest at the finish and reinforced his overall lead.
Tomorrow’s stage is likely to be far more decisive, heading deep into the Pyrenees for the race’s one high mountain stage.
Snow is forecast for the region but for now it is thought the stage will go ahead. And with two Hors-Cat climbs in the final 70 kilometres – the Port del Canto and the little-known Ainé as a summit finish – whoever holds the leader’s jersey after Wednesday’s stage has a very good chance of being the overall winner four days later in Barcelona.
Tour of Catalonia 2012, stage two: Girona to Girona, 161km
1. Michael Albasini (Swi) GreenEdge 3-52-07
2. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky
4. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD
5. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Barracuda
6. Sergio Pardilla (Spa) Movistar
7. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
8. Alberto Losada (Spa) Katusha
9. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky
10. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana all same time
Overall classification after stage two
1. Michael Albasini (Swi) GreenEdge
2. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Barracuda at 1-32 min
3. Mikael Cherel (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 1-32 min
4. Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing at 1-32 min
5. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ-BigMat at 1-32 min
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Barracuda at 1-32 min
7. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 1-32 min
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 1-32 min
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) RadioShack-Nissan at 1-32 min
10. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 1-32 min
Tour of Catalonia 2012: Stage reports
Stage two: Albasini claims second stage win
GreenEdge win again as Albasini takes Catalunya opener
Tour of Catalonia 2012: Related links
Tour of Catalonia 2012: Coverage index