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Hutarovich goes from worst to first to stun big guns


After the novelty of last night’s team time trial (won by HTC-Columbia), normal service was resumed with the first road stage of the 2010 Vuelta a España. While I – and the rest of the cycling world – was watching for the trio of Mark Cavendish, Tyler Farrar and Alessandro Petacchi to contest stage two’s sprint finish in Marbella, Française des Jeux‘s Belarusian sprinter Yauheni Hutarovich stunned everyone in the final 50 metres to take his maiden Grand Tour win. It was a remarkable victory out of left field for a rider whose only prior claim to fame at a Grand Tour was being the last finisher – the lanterne rouge – at the 2009 Tour de France. From worst to first in one fell swoop.

FDJ's Yauheni Hutarovich wins stage two of the Vuelta (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

Although today was officially designated as a flat stage, with just one third-category climb, it nonetheless featured a series of progressive ascents from an altitude of  just 60 metres above sea level at the start to a peak of over 1,100 metres. The obligatory break went away early, with a four-man group of Javier Ramírez (Andalucia-Cajasur), Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis), Johnnie Walker (Footon-Servetto) and Mickael Delage (Omega Pharma-Lotto) quickly establishing a lead of seven minutes to sweep up the mountains points and intermediate sprints. But an HTC-Columbia-led peloton swept them up with about 12 km to go, setting up a bunch finish which no one team was able to drive.

With Bernhard Eisel, Cavendish’s most senior man on a relatively inexperienced squad (in Grand Tour terms), suffering from cramp at the back of the pack, Columbia were unable to exert any measure of control. Lampre, Cofidis and Liquigas all took brief turns at the front, but entering the final 500 metres there was no significant organisation. Garmin-Transitions‘ Farrar jumped out of Petacchi’s wheel with about 250 metres to go, and Cavendish immediately leapfrogged them both, only for Hutarovich to come out of seemingly nowhere to claim the win by half a length.

Hutarovich is an excellent sprinter who has had an impressive 2010, and entered the Vuelta in good form. Today was his fifth win of 2010, including a stage at the recent Tour of Poland. But he had never previously won a sprint in company as exalted as this, and for him to beat three stars as big as Petacchi, Farrar and Cavendish in one go exceeds anything he has previously achieved by some distance.

For Cavendish to lose in this manner came as something of a shock, as his success rate in contested sprints over the past couple of years is pushing 90%. It’s easy to point to reasons such as the draining effect of today’s gentle but sustained climbs on the legs, or the absence of a lead-out man, or maybe even that he was blind-sided unexpectedly. But the fact is he is more than capable of freelancing a sprint on his own (as he demonstrated so adeptly at the Tour), and he had already disposed of Farrar and Petacchi with some ease. There is perhaps an argument that says he may need a couple of days to shake the rust from legs which have not raced in anger since the Tour, but the fact is he and the others were beaten fair and square today by a rival in the form of his life. Congratulations, Yauheni!

After the stage, no one seemed more surprised by his victory than the man himself:

Sure, it was a little bit of a surprise, It’s my third Grand Tour and it’s just my first Grand Tour stage victory. I wanted to come here to win a stage, so of course I am very content. I couldn’t believe when I was going to win — I could see Cav had some problems in his sprint. I saw it was my moment and I went 100%.

I am a sprinter and I live for the sprints. Now I am finding my way among the big sprinters. To beat Cavendish, who is the best sprinter in the world, is something exceptional.

Cavendish retains the race leader’s red jersey for now, but he will be hard-pressed to defend it on tomorrow’s stage, which includes the first-category climb of Puerto del León.

EDIT: It has since been revealed that Cavendish was ill during the stage, vomiting several times on the road. It says everything about the man and the sport he competes in that not only did he continue to the end, but finished second nonetheless. Amazing.

Stage 2 result:

1.  Yahueni Hutarovich (Française des Jeux) 4:35:41

2.  Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) same time

3.  Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) s/t

4.  Alessandro Petachi (Lampre) s/t

5.  Manuel Cardoso (Footon-Servetto) s/t

General classification:

1. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) 4:49:35

2. Kanstantin Sivtsov (HTC-Columbia) +0:12

3. Peter Velits (HTC-Columbia) +0:12

4. Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) +0:12

5. Matthew Goss (HTC-Columbia) +0:12

Points classification

1. Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ) 25 pts

2. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) 20

3. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) 16

Mountains classification

1. Mickael Delage (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 3 pts

2. Javier Ramírez (Andalucia-Cajasur) 2

3. Johnnie Walker (Footon-Servetto) 1

For up-to-the-minute news, results and analysis of the race, visit either the official Vuelta website or the always excellent steephill.tv.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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