Hesjedal Wins Stage 12 of Vuelta
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) has scored his team's second consecutive stage of the 2009 Vuelta and the first by a Canadian in any Vuelta. The Garmin man outsprinted David Garcia (Xacobeo Galicia) to win the mountainous, 179.3-km ride from Almeria to Alto de Velefique in 5:31:34. Garcia finished at 0:01, and Robert Gesink (Rabobank) outsprinted Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) for third at 0:06. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) remains the overall leader.
After several abortive sallies, 11 men went off of the front at 30 km. They were Garcia, Hesjedal, Alexander Vinokourov (Astana), Julien El Fares and Bingen Fernandez (both from Cofidis), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel), Javier Ramirez (Andalucia), Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil), Stuart O'Grady (Saxo Bank), and Julian Sanchez (Contentpolis). Later, Arkaitz Daroca Duran (Fuji) joined the break to make it 12.
The escape's advantage grew to six minutes on the first ascent of the Category 1 Alto de Velefique and to 7:40 at 97.5 km. On the lower slopes of the Category 1 Alto de Calar, Vinokourov dropped back to the peloton. Later, he decided to call it a Vuelta.
At the summit of the Calar (122 km), the break led the bunch by 6:33. Twenty km later, 5:45 separated the fugitives from the field. The gap fell another 0:30 in the next seven km. With 20 km left, the peloton was within 4:45 of the escapees.
Two km later, Garcia attacked his companions. He forged a 30-second lead before Sanchez, Hesjedal, and O'Grady set out after him. Garcia's advantage maxed out at 0:47. Behind, Rabobank and Liquigas moved to the front.
With 10 km remaining, Garcia led the peloton by 4:00, but Sanchez, Hesjedal, and O'Grady were closing in on him. Behind, Mosquera attacked and Tom Danielson (Garmin) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank) joined him. The bunch reeled them in.
With six km left, Garcia led the favorites' group, which was down to about 20 riders. Hesjedal dropped Sanchez and O'Grady and reached Garcia. The Canadian attempted to drop the Spaniard, but the latter hung on.
Damiano Cunego (Lampre) attacked but was brought back. Mosquera powered away from the favorites' group. With three km left, he was within a minute of Hesjedal and Garcia, the latter of whom was no longer working. Gesink joined Mosquera, and with two km remaining Hesjedal was towing Garcia to the finish line while Gesink was towing Mosquera to Hesjedal and Garcia.
At the one-km banner, Hesjedal and Garcia led Gesink and Mosquera by 0:22 and the favorites' group by 0:36. With 500 m left, Hesjedal made a final push. He dashed across the finish line 0:01 ahead of Garcia and 0:06 ahead of Gesink.
In the overall, Valverde leads Cadel Evans (Silence) by 0:07 and Gesink by 0:18. Stage 13 will be harder than Stage 12. The 172.4-km ride from Berja to Alto de Sierra Nevada will feature five categorized climbs, including two Category 1 ascents and the Special Category climb to the finish. The stage will be another standing shaker. Who will prosper? Valverde? Evans? Gesink? Ivan Basso (Liquigas)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!