Stage 6: Guijuelo to Caceres, 175km
Saxo Bank’s Michael Morkov sprung a surprise to take the biggest win of his career, though his achievement was overshadowed by the superhuman efforts of Tony ‘Panzerwagen’ Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). After spending the entire stage out front alone, he was caught with barely 50 metres remaining.
Tony Martin escaped in the opening few kilometres of about as flat a stage as you’ll find in the Vuelta, and built up a maximum advantage of over seven minutes. Despite his time-trialling credentials, Martin was out front entirely alone, and didn’t look like seriously upsetting the sprinters and staying away. Argos-Shimano and Orica-GreenEDGE sat calmly on the front of the peloton, and the German’s advantage was down to under four minutes with 50km to go.
That gap continued to steadily reduce as the riders headed towards the finish in Caceres, and with 20km remaining, Martin could literally see the peloton behind. He appeared to be easing up, and with just 10km left, his advantage was just 15 seconds. However, from then on in, the Panzerwagen showed why he’s hot favourite for the World Championships time trial late in September, delivering one of the finest individual performances of the season.
He upped the tempo, and suddenly the fast-reducing gap was frozen. The distance to the finish decreased ever faster, but Martin’s advantage didn’t. Inside the final kilometre, he still had a few seconds over the sprinters behind. It looked like he’d hold on, but sadly it wasn’t to be. Martin was denied one of the finest modern grand tour stage wins by a matter of metres. After over 150km out front alone, he was caught virtually within touching distance of the line.
Michael Morkov took advantage of the finish line scrap to take a surprising win, ahead of Max Richeze (Lampre-Merida) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard). The GC contenders finished safely in the peloton, meaning Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) retains the red jersey heading into tomorrow’s seventh stage.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Tony Martin is the only rider who could win this award today. His performance ranks among the strongest witnessed in a grand tour in a long time; holding off a charging peloton alone for so long. He’s already looking in great shape to defend his time trial world title in Tuscany next month, with Fabian Cancellara having quite a job on his hands to beat him.
As Martin’s experienced teammate Matteo Trentin puts it:
Analysis & opinion
Michael Morkov‘s great win was overshadowed by Martin’s brilliance, but the stage winner himself deserves more of a mention than just a line in the history books. Morkov is no spring chicken at 28, and had never won a grand tour stage before today – though not for want of trying. The former track rider was lively at last year’s Tour de France, escaping in several breakaways and amassing enough points to lead the mountains classification for the first six stages. He won the Danish national championships earlier this season, and showed today how good his sprinting can be.
Stage 6 result
1. Michael Morkov (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) 3:54:15
2. Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Lampre-Merida) same time
3. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) s/t
4. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) s/t
5. Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 22:38:07
2. Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) +0:03
3. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:08
4. Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack-Leopard) +0:16
5. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:21
6. Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack-Leopard) +0:26
7. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) +0:28
8. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +0:31
9. Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:38
10. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:42
Points classification: Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE).
Mountains classification: Nicolas Roche (Team Saxo-Tinkoff).
Combination classification: Nicolas Roche (Team Saxo-Tinkoff).
Team classification: RadioShack-Leopard.
Link: Official website