URDAX, Spain (AP) Mikel Iturria couldn’t have asked for a better setting for his first professional cycling win.
Just a few kilometers (miles) from home and with his family watching, Iturria used a solo breakaway to win the 11th stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Wednesday.
“To win it the Vuelta, close to home and with my family here, is a dream come true,” the Spaniard said. “Before the race I was asked which stage I wanted to win, and I said this was the one. I gave all I had. I was going as fast as I could, finding strength that I didn’t know I had, and was able to make it to the end and win the stage.”
Iturria held on for the victory after making an impressive solo run with about 25 kilometers (15 miles) to go of the 180-kilometer (112-mile) ride from Saint-Palais to Urdax in Spain’s Basque Country.
Iturria, a 27-year-old rider from team Euskadi-Murias, finished six seconds ahead of the first group of chasers. He had built a gap of nearly 50 seconds with about 15 kilometers (9 miles) to go.
“I don’t have words for this,” the Basque Country rider said. “We’ll have to toast with champagne tonight.”
Overall leader Primoz Roglic finished safely in the peloton, which crossed the line almost 20 minutes after Iturria. Roglic remained 1 minute, 52 seconds in front of Alejandro Valverde, with Miguel Angel Lopez 19 seconds behind.
“It was a bit of a hard start but then it was a nice day and my team did a great job,” said Roglic, a former ski jumper from Slovenia who rides for team Jumbo-Visma. “We’ve proven this is a big team already. I don’t think tomorrow’s stage is more dangerous than the high mountains. I don’t have any problem with short climbs. We need to be focused on the moment and do our best.”
On Thursday, riders will face three difficult short climbs near the end of a 171-kilometer (106-mile) stage that will finish in Bilbao, still in Basque Country.