Mikel Iturria on Wednesday dug deep to register his first-ever professional win as a mass escape dominated stage 11 at the Vuelta a Espana.
Iturria of Euskadi-Murias pulled clear of a group that came in 18 minutes ahead of the peloton in the final kilometers and the 27-year-old held on for an impressive win in the Pyrenees.
Another Spaniard, Jonathan Lastra of Caja Rural–Seguros RGA, was second, with the US’ Lawson Craddock of EF Education First Pro Cycling coming in third, both part of a chasing pack that finished six seconds behind.
None of the 14 breakaway riders posed a threat to Team Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic, the Slovenian who retained the overall leader’s red jersey ahead of yesterday’s stage 12.
Roglic was 1 minute, 52 seconds ahead of Spain’s Alejandro Valverde of Movistar Team and 2 minutes, 11 seconds in front of Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana Pro Team in the general standings, all of whom finished in the same time.
Iturria, whose hometown of Urnieta is about 50km from the finish, admitted that he had to fight for his success.
“I am so happy,” Iturria said. “I have never won as a professional. so to win here at the Vuelta a Espana, so close to home, in a stage I used to come to see, is a dream come true.”
“I attacked at full speed, with all I had, there were a lot of kilometers left and it was a bit of a gamble. I opened up a gap and from there to the finish line, it was just about holding on, holding on and holding on,” he added.
With more strenuous tests to come, the peloton saved their legs across the 180km route from Saint-Palais in France to Urdax-Dantxarinea in northern Spain.
The breakaway group was established after 40km, with Angel Madrazo of Burgos BH, Ben O’Connor of Team Dimension Data, Caja Rural’s Alexander Aranburu and Astana’s Gorka Izagirre, as well as Iturria, among those stretching the early lead to seven minutes.
Remi Cavagna of Deceuninck-Quick-Step and Lastra were chasing while O’Connor and Madrazo were dropped, falling away on the category-three climb of Col de Otxondo.
With 16km left, Iturria was alone with a lead of 45 seconds over an 11-strong group, which itself was splintering and reforming until finally it was down to four.
However, despite gaining ground, the chasers were unable to catch Iturria, who closed out his surprise victory, the peloton crossing the line 18 minutes, 35 seconds later.
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