Vuelta a Andalucía: Dani Moreno takes final stage as Alejandro Valverde secures overall
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vuelta a Andalucía: Dani Moreno takes final stage as Alejandro Valverde secures overall

by Ben Atkins at 9:41 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
 
First stage race victory since the 2009 Vuelta a España for former suspended rider

daniel morenoDani Moreno (Katusha) took the fourth and final stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía - the Ruta del Sol - between Jaén and La Guardia de Jaén, as he outsprinted the rest of the climbers at the top of the Alto de la Guardia. Just two seconds behind the 30-year-old Castilian though, was race leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who secured overall victory in the race; his first since returning from suspension at the beginning of the year. Third place on the stage went to Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) after Moreno and Valverde’s Katusha and Movistar teams had softened the peloton on the steep final climb, which averaged 8.1%, with sections of up to 15%.

The sprint after the final climb came after the stage-long break was pulled back with less than 10km to go. Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), Kenny van Hummel (Vacansoleil-DCM), Yury Trofimov (Katusha), Jorge Azanza and Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Reto Hollenstein (NetApp) and Jean-Marc Marino (Saur Sojasun) escaped after 12km. Van Hummel and Azanza were dropped on the approach to the final climb - to be replaced by Yann Huguet (Project 1t4i), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) and Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM) - but they were all pulled back in good time before the approach to the finish.

“This victory is really unexpected,” said Moreno afterwards. “I felt in a good shape today, but my rivals today were very strong, especially Valverde who is back to his usual standards.

“Anyway, I was able to surprise him and everybody by launching my move with 500 metres to go,” he continued. “I took a good advantage and when they responded it was too late. I'm very happy for this result, we have proved to be a very strong team that fights for the win everyday.

“Now I'm going to a mountain training camp in order to improve my shape,” he added, “then I'll take part in Tirreno-Adriatico, where we want to obtain great results as well as here in Andalucía.”

A break goes early but doesn’t go far

Voigt, van Hummel, Trofimov, Azanza, Izagirre, Hollenstein and Morino escaped just 12km into the short, but sharp 135.7km stage, and were immediately allowed to build a lead. In just three kilometres they were able to open up a gap of 1’25” but, mindful of the relatively short distance to the finish, the peloton woke up and, at the 25km point, it had only grown to 1’30”.

The gap between the seven-man group and the peloton began to fluctuate, but this was more to do with the challenging nature of the terrain than any deliberate effort on the peloton’s part to close it down.

When Izagirre led over the top of the 3rd category Puerto de Sierra Mágina after 46.3km, the group’s lead was down to just 57 seconds; while, as Azanza took the Meta Volante sprint at Jodar after 51.3km, it had crept over a minute once more. It quickly grew to 1’45” by the mid-point of the stage, which came down to 1’30” as the leaders crossed the 3rd category Alto de Ubeda after 71.8km.

This seemed to be a signal to the peloton to start bringing the fugitives back and, as Movistar worked hard on the front, the gap was down to just 41 seconds with 45km to go.

The front group changes but surely won't last much longer

As the leaders began the long, steady approach to the 3rd category Puerto de 7 Pinillas with the peloton closing in, Voigt and Izagirre left the others behind. Trofimov, Hollenstein and Marino fought back up to the duo, and the group was back up to five, but Van Hummel and Azana drifted back to the waiting bunch; having got so close to the leaders though, the peloton took its foot off the gas once again, and the gap went back up to 1’50” at 40km to go.

Once again though, the Movistar team began to close things down and, inside the final 20km, the Cofidis and Caja Rural teams came forward to help the Spanish team. 17km from the finish though, with the gap no more than 30 seconds, Huguet, Vanendert and Ligthart leapt across the the leaders. There were now eight riders in the break but, with 15km to go, they were only 15 seconds ahead of the peloton. As they approached the summit of the climb, all bar Ligthart and Trofimov were captured, but they too were hauled back before the top of the climb by the Movistar and Katusha teams.

The peloton was all together as it his the base of the steep 3rd category climb up to the finish line. The Movistar and Katusha teams began to turn up the wick as the steep slopes began though, which quickly shelled a number of riders out the back. Valverde himself led as the finish approached, looking for a second stage victory in the race, but Moreno came around him, managed to get a gap, and went on to win alone.

Result stage 4
1. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha Team
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 2s
3. Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
4. Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM
5. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
7. Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team
8. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank
9. Igor Antón (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
10. Rein Taaramäe (Est) Cofidis

Final overall standings
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
2. Rein Taaramäe (Est) Cofidis @ 3s
3. Jérôme Coppel (Fra) Saur-Sojasun @ 8s
4. Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team @ 14s
5. Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM @ 15s
6. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Project 1t4i @ 18s
7. Fränk Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan @ 22s
8. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan @ 26s
9. Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan @ 27s
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank @ 28s

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