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Vuelta a Espana 2019: Mikel Iturria escapes the breakaway to take Stage 11 solo win; GC riders roll in 18 minutes later

George Smith
4 Sep 2019

When the stage winner crossed the line, the GC group still had well over 12km to go

Mikel Iturria (Euskadi-Murias) earned the biggest win of his career after soloing to victory from the day's breakaway group on Stage 11 of the 2019 Vuelta a Espana.

As the remnants of the breakaway rolled across the line, they did so with a gap of around 15 minutes to the peloton, who were enjoying a relaxing day ahead of the upcoming mountainous stages.

The gap to the GC riders and their teams went out further and the group crossed the line 18:36 after the stage winner. Clesrly thinking they could save a bit of time by doing their recovery spin on the road rather than the rollers, the red jersey and his rivals took the last few kilometres very easy.

With the mountains to come, who can really blame them.

Always a day for the break

After yesterday’s potentially General Classification defining ITT, today was always going to be somewhat transitional for riders with hopes of overall victory, with the parcours of Stage 11 looking always favourable for breakaway riders.

The 180km lumpy stage, from Saint Palais to Urdax-Dantxarinea, took riders out of France, albeit the French Basque Country, and into Euskadi, the autonomous Basque community in Northern Spain.

Over that distance they tackled three categorised climbs, with the 2nd Cat Col d’Ispeguy sandwiched between the two 3rd Cat climbs of the Col d’Osquich and the Col de Oxtondo. No guesses as to which of those sits within Basque borders.

Following the script neatly, attack after attack was launched from the get go, with the initial breakaway being followed by not one but two chasing groups ahead of the main peloton.

With around 40km gone, the race had settled into a rhythm, however, as 14 riders formed the day's clear breakaway group and established a lead that was hovering between six and seven minutes over the rest of the riders.

In their midst was no one capable of challenging the GC contenders, with the best placed rider Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data) starting the day in 36th place, 37:08 down on race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).

From there, little changed as the stage rolled through southwest France. The gap continued to fluctuate along a similar margin as before, and by the time the 14 riders hit the Col d’Osquich, it was 7:07.

The 4.9km climb which averages 6.1% did little in the way to throw up any surprises, and current KOM jersey holder Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH) took the maximum three points ahead of O’Connor and Astana’s Gorka Izagirre.

By the time the peloton had tackled the climb the gap to the break had dramatically risen to over nine minutes, with Jumbo-Visma comfortably controlling the bunch for the red jersey wearer.

As the 14 breakaway riders reached the next categorised climb, the 7.2km Col d’Ispeguy which averages 7.1%, that advantage had further increased to 10 minutes.

After a few abortive attacks on the mountain from Izagirre, he managed to take fellow Basque rider Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) away from the rest of the group.

From there it all started to become slightly hectic at the front of the race, with riders attacking and then being dropped again in a repetitive fashion that smacked of a lack of organisation.

With 16km remaining, Mikel Iturria (Euskadi-Murias) found himself riding alone in the lead with a gap of slightly more than 45 seconds to the group of 11 chasers, which itself was slowly splintering and eventually became just five.

Around 7km from the finish Iturria took the maximum sprint points by virtue of his position, with the remaining points also won uncontested.

As he reached the 3km mark the five chasers were still unable to work together effectively, with the gap sitting at nine seconds.