Swift takes big Basque win

Ben Swift pulled off one of the best victories of his career as he claimed stage five at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.

The Yorkshireman continued his strong run of momentum to finish in a select and elite front group and win the sprint in fine style.

With general classification contenders attacking each other on the final second-category climb into Markina, Swift weathered the storm and demonstrated his climbing class before placing himself perfectly in the final kilometre.

Opening up the sprint the Team Sky rider held off Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Michal Kwiatkoswki (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) at the line, capturing his second win of the year and first at WorldTour level since 2012.

Leader Alberto Contador found himself without team-mates on the final peak and the battle between the leader and rival Valverde resumed as the latter attacked.

Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) stuck fast to his compatriot's wheel onto the descent where the pair were joined by stage four winner Poels (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step). The trio held a small advantage over a reduced chasing pack but were reeled in just as they headed under the two kilometre banner.

That provided Swift with his moment to shine, while Contador finished comfortably in the chasing pack to maintain his 12-second lead.

Powerful break

With just Sunday's time trial remaining after the stage there was no surprise to see a number of riders try to attack in what, for many, was their final chance to take a stage win in the Basque Country.

A strong and sizeable group of 16 riders finally powered clear as the race set off en route to Markina. Xabier Zandio ensured his Team Sky team-mates could sit back as he infiltrated the move.

Tinkoff-Saxo were content to set a decent tempo at the front of the race and kept the escapees at arm's length.

Movistar took over on the Alto de Izua in a bid to thin out the lead pack, while up ahead the breakaway finally fractured. Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing), Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin Cycling) held a slender 24-second gap over the top of the penultimate climb.

The pace cranked up behind and in elite company Swift rose to the occasion and took a stylish victory. Team Sky's GC contender heading into the stage had been Mikel Nieve but the Basque rider struggled and eventually slipped back on the final climb.