• Damien Howson on the move during Stage 11 of the Vuelta a España. (Getty)Source: Getty
Making the break after only nine kilometres of racing, Damien Howson just missed out on recording a result in a Grand Tour.
Cycling Central

5 Sep 2019 - 9:14 AM  UPDATED 5 Sep 2019 - 9:27 AM

Usually a selfless Mitchelton-Scott super domestique, the 27-year-old South Australian rarely gets the chance to ride for himself but did on the 180km stage from Saint-Palais to Urdax-Dantxarinea after making the initial 11-rider break.

The front group grew to 14 as the rest of the peloton, content with the selection, switched off for the day. The gap to the peloton later grew to 13 minutes by the time the Col d’Ispéguy had been crossed and the battle for the stage was on.

Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Gorka Izagirre (Astana) and Lawson Craddock (EF Education First) gapped the rest of the break by 25 seconds as the group containing Howson chased. That was closed down until eventual stage winner, Mikel Iturria went solo with 25km to go.

Iturria profits on home ground as the break sticks on La Vuelta Stage 11
Racing on home ground, Mikel Iturria took his first professional win on stage 11 of the Vuelta after featuring in the 14-man break which stuck to the finish.

"It was pretty even within the selection in the last 10-kilometres, every team only having one person represented, so it became quite a tactical affair," Howson said. "I knew I was feeling strong on the climbs and I could put most people under pressure in that area.

"I didn’t want to back myself in a sprint, but it was kind of tricky because there's obviously one guy still away (Iturria) and I don’t like racing for second, but I didn’t really have much of a choice in the end, I tried my best and fourth today is ok."

The work ethic by Howson and the rest of the break did not go completely unrewarded but they ran out of road. A desperate Iturria at one point held a 48-second lead, reduced to just six seconds at the finish.

"Everyone's just desperate but they don’t want to play their card too early, they expect all the other riders to do the work and close the lone leader and then save themselves for the sprint," Howson said. "But every other rider is also thinking the same.

"So that’s where playing a bit of poker, but also taking a bit of a gamble at times normally pays off and that’s what I tried today, but unfortunately today it wasn’t for the win, but we’ll keep trying."

Vuelta a España: why you should watch the rest of Week 2
Hectic racing, epic crashes, team disharmony, a marijuana crop - the Vuelta's already dished up some quality storylines. And it ain't over yet. Lean into your FOMO and catch Stages 12-16 on SBS Viceland or streaming here or via SBS On Demand.