Laiseka wins 11th stage; former leader McGee drops out

Updated: September 6, 2005, 1:13 PM ET
Reuters

RAMON CERLER, Spain -- Spaniard Roberto Laiseka secured a much-needed victory for his Euskaltel-Euskadi squad on the 11th stage of the Tour of Spain on Tuesday.

The winner of a gruelling Pyrenean stage from Andorra to the summit finish in Aramon Cerler crossed the line with a 15-second advantage over Spaniards Carlos , second, and Roberto Heras, third.

Russian race leader Denis Menchov finished fifth, maintaining his overall advantage of 47 seconds over Heras. Spaniard Francisco Mancebo remains third overall, one minute 53 seconds behind.

Laiseka broke away from a group of five overall favorites three kilometers from the line to secure the third Tour of Spain stage win of his career.

"I had a real crisis earlier on the final climb, when attacked, but then I managed to pull it all back together again," said Laiseka, whose biggest win was at Luz Ardiden in 2001.

"I knew I wasn't going to be followed by the favorites for the overall, they'd be too busy watching each other. When it comes to winning, I'm still worth placing a bet on."

The 36-year-old said he recalled the Cerler climb from when he first took part in the Tour of Spain as a rookie pro in 1994.

Since then the veteran climber has been part of the race lineup for his only team, Euskaltel-Euskadi, each year.

Following a dismal Tour de France for the second year running, the team's two high-profile riders, Spaniards Aitor Gonzalez and Iban Mayo, have both failed to shine on home ground.

Mayo abandoned in the first week and Gonzalez is more than 13 minutes down overall.

However, Laiseka's stage win, the team's first in a major tour since July 2003, should help ease the pressure.

After a break of nine was reeled in at the foot of the final climb of Aramon Cerler, Liberty Seguros attempted to put race leader Menchov under pressure.

Repeated attacks by three-time Tour of Spain winner Heras whittled down the lead group to six.

After two previous attempts to go clear, Laiseka's third finally proved to be the winning ticket.

Although a second category climb was excluded from the stage route because of a landslide, several top riders opted to quit.

Colombian former world time-trial champion Santiago Botero, Australian ex-race leader Bradley McGee and Norwegian Thor Hushovd, who won the points competition in the 2005 race, were amongst those who abandoned.

The race finishes in Madrid on Sept. 18.

ALSO SEE