Gilbert Takes First Win as World Champion
With his world championship year about to end, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) has notched his first win. The world road race champion overtook Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) to win Stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana. Gilbert took the rolling, 164.2-km ride from Maella to Tarragona in 4:03:44. Maximiliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) finished third, and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) remains the red jersey.
The hostilities began early. Moments after the start, Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Romain Zingle (Cofidis), and Cedric Pineau (Francaise des Jeux) sallied off of the front. Astana refused to chase riders who were not general classification threats, and the trio led by three minutes at 10 km, nearly six minutes at 25 km, and 6:42 at 28 km. Orica-GreenEdge, Argos-Shimano, and Garmin-Sharp then went to the front to peg the lead.
By 64 km, the fugitives’ advantage had dropped to 4:27. Lampre-Merida joined the pursuit, and the lead continued to drop, but the peloton slowed to avoid catching the break too soon. The gap widened to 5:25 at 73 km. When the break reached the base of the Category 3 Alto del Collet at 84 km, however, the lead had dropped to 5:10.
The gap continued to narrow. It was 4:28 at the summit at 90.5 km and a little more than three minutes with 50 km remaining.
With 48 km left, a crash split the peloton. Imanol Erviti (Movistar) and Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) hit the deck. Erviti was up right away, but Iglinsky was slow to remount. The crash and the peloton’s regrouping saw the break’s advantage creep up slightly.
When the regroupment occurred, Orica-GreenEdge, Lampre-Merida, Argos-Shimano, and Belkin led the peloton. The four teams’ pacemaking cut the escapees’ lead to 1:30 with 30 km left. Five km later, it was 0:35.
With 20 km remaining, 0:12 separated the bunch from the break. NetApp-Endura took over at the front and led the catch.
The GC contenders went to the front to compete for bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint with 15 km left. Ivan Basso (Cannondale) took three seconds, and Nicolas Roche (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) grabbed two.
After the sprint, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) attacked. He forged an 11-second lead, but BMC led the pursuit and reeled in the German with 11 km to go.
Astana and Movistar took over at the front and set a torrid pace. With six km left, the sprinters’ squads moved to the front, and Orica-GreenEdge took command.
With 4.5 km remaining, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) punctured. He caught a break, however, because the three-km zone was lengthened to five km for the stage, and the Italian lost no time.
Astana led the field into the last three km. At that point, Orica-GreenEdge and Garmin-Sharp took over. The finish was slightly uphill, and Lotto-Belisol took command as the road began to rise with 500 m left.
With 300 m to go, Boasson Hagen made his move. For a time, he looked like a winner, but Gilbert bided his time and jumped the Norwegian, passing him in the final meters.
Gilbert had a near miss in Stage 7. Today, however, the Belgian was confident that he could win. "I was really convinced because the last time when I was second [on Stage 7 last Saturday], it was a little bit similar finish – with a very tricky final," Gilbert said. "So I decided to come to the front pretty early, like with 20 km to go. This cost me a lot of energy because you hit the wind more than the rest. But at least you see everything coming and you can choose your line. I was perfectly dropped off by the guys in the last two kilometers, especially by Danilo Wyss, who did a great job."
Gilbert added that Boasson Hagen’s early jump did not unnerve him. "When you start so early, it's never easy, because it's still like 20 seconds to the line – a long time," the world champion said. "It's also where I am the strongest. I knew if I went full gas, I could make it. I passed him and it happened. It was like a dream. It was amazing."
In the overall, Nibali leads Roche by 0:31 and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) by 0:46. Stage 13 will not change this state of affairs. The 169-km ride from Valls to Castelldefels will feature a Category 3 climb and a Category 1 ascent, but neither will be near the finish line. The GC contenders will allow an escape by a group of riders who are no threat to them. Who will be in it? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!