• Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott) just throws to the line ahead of Maximiliano Richeze (QuickStep Floors) (TDWSport)Source: TDWSport
Orica-Scott's Swiss veteran Michael Albasini claimed a narrow sprint victory today on the second stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco, pipping Maximiliano Richeze (QuickStep Floors) and Sean de Bie (Lotto Soudal) in the dash to the line.
Cycling Central

5 Apr 2017 - 7:57 AM  UPDATED 5 Apr 2017 - 8:43 AM

Albasini has been a stalwart of the Orica-Scott set up even since the squad's formation and can be relied upon several wins per season in reduced bunch sprints after a hard stage.

Last year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege runner up showed his power and experience to launch out from the wheels with 300 metres to go and hold on all the way to the finish line to take the stage victory into Eltziego.

“I actually didn’t feel so great during the stage,” Albasini explained after his first win of the season. “We had big chain rings on which I am not really used to riding but it was downhill and very fast in the end and it actually worked out very well.”

“We decided around 25 kilometres to go that I would try the sprint today. I was looking before the race on the satellite pictures and for me it was pretty clear that we wouldn’t change position much in the final 300 to 400 metres.

“When the guys attacked in the final I went straight away and we didn’t change position much so that was the key to winning today.”

Fresh from a strong ride on Sunday in the Vuelta la Rioja, where Albasini spent the day in the breakaway and still sprinted to second place, the win today gave the 36-year-old confidence in his current form.

“I feel good at the moment,” Albasini continued. “I had two good weeks of training after Milan-San Remo and already in La Rioja on Sunday I felt really good and was able to pull out a result.”

“Even yesterday I was able to do a good job for Simon Gerrans to lead him out so it is actually really good to win today. It gives me a lot of confidence for the upcoming races.”

With the final six kilometres of the stage predominately downhill, the team worked hard to position both Gerrans and Albasini but also bearing in mind the position of their general classification hopeful Simon Yates.

“The plan both today and yesterday was to try and get both Albasini and Gerrans into a position where they could go for the stage,” said sports director Neil Stephens. “They are both quick riders and today the guys spoke out on the road around 25 kilometres to go and decided to have a go with Albasini.”

“We were really conscious that the final six kilometres were downhill. It was meant to be a bit of a stronger wind and the rest of the teams had the same thing in mind.

“For some of our riders it had to be their finishing line to get these guys into good position into the final kilometres of the race.

“From there on it was a case of staying in a good place. Even Simon Yates went up to the front and once he was there, we knew he was ok and that he wouldn’t really lose position, so all the guys did a really good job.

“In the final part it was a bit of surfing for position and that is what Albasini did really well. He isn’t afraid to hit out early and that is what he did and it paid off for him today.”

Stage two of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco began very much like yesterday’s stage with the early breakaway forming in the first 10 kilometres.

Two riders, Fabricio Ferrari (Caja-Rural) and Luis Maté (Cofidis), quickly establish an advantage of three minutes and remained out front before being brought back to the fold with 14 kilometres left. Team Sunweb were left to do most of the work on the front of the peloton with race leader and stage favourite Michael Matthews in their ranks.

Coming into the finals kilometres, Orica-Scott remained in good position at the head of the peloton keeping Gerrans and Albasini in the front position ahead of the final dash for the line.

A late effort with around 500 metres to go saw Albasini move up to the front and launch his sprint, successfully powering all the way to the line to claim his first victory of the season. 

Michael Matthews retained the race lead after finishing fourth on the stage and will head into the hilly Stage 3 with the yellow jersey.