Deignan Takes Stage 18 of Vuelta
Philip Deignan (Cervelo) has won Stage 18 of the 2009 Vuelta. The Irishman took a two-up sprint from Roman Kreuzinger (Liquigas) to win the rugged, 165-km ride from Talavera de la Reina to Avila in 4:19:14. Kreuzinger took the runner-up spot at 0:03, and Jacob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank) finished third at 0:16. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) remains the overall leader.
The stage was ridden in chilly, damp conditions. On the Category 1 Puerto de Mijares, 16 men sallied off of the front. They were Philippe Gilbert (Silence); Jesus Hernandez (Astana); Deignan; Bingen Fernandez, Rein Taaramae, and David Moncoutie (all from Cofidis); Tadej Valjavec (Ag2r); Remy Di Gregorio (Francaise des Jeux); Igor Anton (Euskaltel); Manuel Vasquez (Contentpolis); Kreuzinger; David Herrero (Xacobeo Galicia); Fuglsang and Matti Breschel (both from Saxo Bank); and Jesus Del Nero Montes (Fuji). None of the escapees was a GC threat, and a hard mountain stage will take place tomorrow, so the bunch let the break go. At the feed zone (83 km), the fugitives led the field by four minutes. The lead was not big, especially with the stage only half ridden, but the peloton was in no mood to chase.
During the next 60 km, the gap yo-yoed between 3:30 and 4:30. At the base of the day's final climb, the Category 3 Alto del Boqueron, Gilbert attacked. Vasquez and Herrero overtook the Belgian, and Fuglsang and Kreuzinger joined the pair. As the riders reached the summit, those riders who had not been shed by the series of attacks joined the four leaders.
Not, however, for long. On the descent. Deignan and Kreuzinger escaped. Fuglsang and Herrero set out after them, but the Spaniard was dropped with seven km left. The Irishman and the Czech held the Dane at bay and had time to spar with each other in the final km.
Five hundred meters from the finish, Kreuzinger started sprinting. With 200 m left, Deignan made his move. Kreuzinger was exhausted and settled for second. The peloton rolled home 9:50 behind Deignan.
In the overall, Valverde leads Robert Gesink (Rabobank) by 0:32 and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) by 1:10. Stage 18 might change this state of affairs. The mountainous, 179.8-km ride from Avila to Real Fabrica de Cristales will feature three Category 1 ascents, including the Puerto de Navacerrada, the summit of which is 18 km from the finish line. This stage will be the last mountain stage of the 2009 Vuelta, and with narrow gaps between the contenders, the GC men will take advantage of this opportunity to topple Valverde from his pedestal. Will the challengers succeed? If so, who will take the race lead? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!