Rodriguez Wins Stage 19 of Vuelta; Horner Takes Red Jersey
The racing started early. In the second km, 18 riders got clear. They were Nicolas Edet and Nico Sijmens (both from Cofidis); Dominik Nerz, Ivan Santamorita, and Danilo Wyss (all from BMC); Edvald Boasson Hagen and Xabier Zandio (both from Sky); Leigh Howard and Christian Meier (both from Orica-GreenEdge); David Tanner (Belkin); Francis De Greef (Lotto-Belisol); Rafael Valls (Vacansoleil-DCM); Georg Preidler (Argos-Shimano); Benat Intxausti (Movistar); Paul Voss (NetApp-Endura); Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi); Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida); David Arroyo (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA); Andriy Grivko (Astana); and Daniele Ratto (Cannondale). The Katusha-led peloton kept the escape on a short leash, and the break led the bunch by 2:35 at 50 km. Omega Pharma-Quick Step had missed the break and thus had to join the chase, which meant that the leash would not loosen.
At about 90 km Boasson Hagen and Preidler jumped clear of the break, and Edet, Tanner, Wyss, Arroyo, Grivko and Voss pursued the pair, with Mori and Valls joining later. The chase group dropped Tanner, and the bunch reeled him in with 60 km left.
The break’s lead over the peloton maxed out at 3:20. As the climbs at the end of the stage approached, the bunch accelerated. On the Category 3 Alto de San Emiliano, the field trailed the chase group by 0:30 and the leaders by 2:02. Ten km later, the chasers were caught.
Dennis Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) counterattacked, and Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Mikael Cherel (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Pieter Serry and Serge Pauwels (both from Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), and Luis Angel Maté (Cofidis) joined him. Jose Joao Mendes (NetApp-Endura), Jose Herrada (Movistar), and Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) bridged up to the move, as did Andriy Zeits (Astana) and Christian Knees (Sky). Zeits and Knees fell off of the pace, however, as did Vanendert.
Flecha, Verdugo, and Herrada bridged up to Preidler and Boasson Hagen with 15 km left. The peloton, which Katusha and Astana led, was less than a minute in arrears. One km from the summit of the Category 3 Alto de la Mazaneda, Preidler attacked. At the summit, with 12.4 km left, the German led the chase group by 0:09 and the peloton by 0:42.
On the descent, the chase group caught Preidler. Behind, the Astana-led bunch closed in. With 10 km to go, the break led the bunch by 0:33.
Mendes attacked. Francaise des Jeux took over at the front for a time, and then Astana retook command. At the base of the climb to the finish, with 5.7 km remaining, Mendes had a one-minute lead on the peloton. Francaise des Jeux returned to the front.
Saxo Bank-Tinkoff took over on the climb. Mendes’s lead was down to 0:45, while Herrada, Flecha, and Verdugo were in the no man’s lead between the leaders and the bunch.
With three km left, Mendes led the field by 0:31. Saxo Bank-Tinkoff accelerated and reeled in the remains of the break. Thibaut Pinot (Francaise des Jeux) was dropped.
Just outside the one-km banner, Nicolas Roche (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) attacked. The Irishman overtook Mendes. Horner took Roche’s wheel, but Roche attacked again. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) got Roche’s wheel, but Rodriguez countered and jumped into the lead. The Spaniard powered clear and held on for the win. Behind, Nibali failed to keep pace with Horner and surrendered the red jersey.
The victory was satisfying for Rodriguez, who entered the Vuelta with hopes of winning but lowered his ambitions to taking a stage. He and his team planned to win today’s stage. “Today I’m really happy, Rodriguez said, “because finally I took the stage win. The whole team was great. They worked from the first km to the end because they knew I could win. We planned to attack in the last climb. I didn’t know very well how it was, but the directeurs sportifs helped me and gave me the right information. As I saw the last km, I attacked. It was very hard, but I did my best in order to win the stage. I’m really happy. I’m an ambitious rider, and I greatly wanted this victory. That gives me strong motivation. Tomorrow we have the last mountain stage, which will be crucial for general classification. Angliru is much harder than today’s climb, so everything can happen. Every climber would love to win tomorrow; it’s a prestigious stage. That’s why I hope to be in shape and fight for the victory. Today I got closer to the podium, my final goal. The team and I will fight until the last meter in order to get the best possible result….It’s very hard…Angliru is a terrible mountain, we are all very tired after such a tough competition, so everything can happen.”
In the overall, Horner leads Nibali by 0:03 and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) by 1:06. Stage 20, a mountainous, 142.2-km ride from Aviles to Alto de L’Angliru, will be a standing shaker. The stage will feature the Category 1 Alto del Cordal, and it will end with an ascent of Angliru, one of the most feared climbs in cycling. This stage will likely decide the 2013 Vuelta. Who will win it? Horner? Nibali? Rodriguez? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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