SMUKULIS TAKES SOLO WIN FOR HTC-HIGHROAD IN TOUR OF CATALUNYA
March 21, 2011
A courageous day-long break in the Tour of Catalunya by HTC-Highroad rider Gatis Smukulis earned the Latvian both the stage win and the overall lead.
The 23-year-old took off in the first hour of racing on the 166 kilometer stage, and was joined by three other riders.
Smukulis shook off all the other breakaways close to the finish in Lloret de Mar before he powered across the line alone and ahead of the main pack for HTC-Highroad's 18th win of the 2011 season.
"I'm really surprised that I could win today," Smukulis said, "I'm in good shape for the Classics, but these sorts of long breaks don't normally work out."
"There were a lot of attacks, it was a fast start, and then we got away on a bit of a downhill."
"I worked hard to open up the gap in the first half of the stage and then concentrated on keeping my strength for the final part of the day, which I knew would be tough."
"The last 20 kilometers were flat or downhill and that made a real difference, otherwise for sure they would have caught us."
"It was a good day for getting away because it was very hilly, the first stage of a difficult race and no team wanted to take control chasing behind," added HTC-Highroad's sports director Allan Peiper.
"But it was close, Gatis had to work really hard to get this win today and he deserved to get the victory."
Smukulis's win is the latest in a string of major victories for HTC-Highroad, coming a week after Tony Martin won Paris-Nice in France and two days after Matt Goss took the Milan-San Remo Classic in Italy.
HTC-Highroad for Tour of Catalunya: Caleb Fairly (USA), Patrick Gretsch (Ger), Craig Lewis (USA), Frantisek Rabon (Cze), Konstantsin Siutsou (Byl), Gatis Smukulis (Lat), Maritn Velits (Svk).