Vuelta a España: Philippe Gilbert wins in Barcelona at the head of a two-man break
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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Vuelta a España: Philippe Gilbert wins in Barcelona at the head of a two-man break

by Ben Atkins at 11:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Race Reports and Results
Former Belgian champion escapes on the Montjuic with Joaquim Rodríguez to take his first victory of the year

philippe gilbertPhilippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) finally opened his account for 2012 as he took the ninth stage of the Vuelta a España, between Andorra and Barcelona. The former Belgian champion, who was seemingly able to win for fun in 2011, latched onto a late attack from race leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) on the Alto de Montjuic with less than four kilometres to go.

The two riders managed to hold off the chasing peloton on the descent that followed, and victory was a mere formality for Gilbert on the gently rising finishing straight.

Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) managed to escape the peloton in the final kilometre, and held on to take third place, seven seconds back; the peloton was led over the line by former Polish champion Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil-DCM), nine seconds behind Gilbert, but a three second split saw the big favourites of the race lose three further seconds.

The 196.3km stage, which gradually descended from the capital of the Pyrenéen Principality and the coastal Catalan city saw a four man break get clear straight away. Javier Chacon (Andalucía), Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis), Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Sharp) and Bert-Jan Lindeman (Vacansoleil-DCM) managed to get more than five minutes clear in the opening kilometres, but were gradually reeled in by the sprinters’ teams, and were caught with 25km to go.

Despite there being several kilometres still to race, the pace was kept too high for anybody to attempt a series attack - although Jesus Rosendo (Andalucía) tried almost immediately. As the Monjuic approached however, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) attempted to escape but, as the climb arrived, Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) was the first rider to successfully get clear.

Rodríguez quickly countered the move by the former World champion however, and he too was chased down by Gilbert, and the two riders got together for the descent. Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) put in an unsuccessful solo pursuit, but was caught by the peloton just before the final kilometre; Rodríguez was still leading the Belgian up ahead though, and Gilbert easily came around him to take his first victory of the season, blowing kisses as he did so.

The small time gap - as well as an eight second time bonus for second place - meant that Rodríguez extended his lead in the general classification to 53 seconds over Chris Froome (Team Sky), and a full minute over Contador.

Reactions to follow.

From the Pyrénées to the sea and some familiar riders get away

After the previous day’s tough stage on the Collada de la Gallina in Andorra, the ninth stage left the Pyrenéen Principality’s capital on a steadily downward course to the coastal Catalan capital of Barcelona. While the finishing straight looked ideal for the sprinters of the peloton, the presence of the Alto de Montjuic with just 3.4km to go would offer a big chance to the opportunists.

Chacon, Buffaz, Maaskant and Lindeman escaped in the opening kilometre, and were 5’20” ahead by the 21km point, when Katusha came forward to check the gap. All four of the breakaway riders had previously been in big attacks in the race, with Buffaz having been in the break the day before, but none was any danger at all to Rodríguez’ lead.

BMC Racing, Lotto-Belisol and Argos Shimano all came forward to help Rodríguez’ team, and slowly the break came back. Its lead had dropped to little more than three minutes on the approach to the 3rd category Alto de la Collada de Clarà, but rose to 4’48” as they neared the top of the climb, after 71.4km.

This was steadily reduced through the first intermediate sprint - in Cardona after 96km - which was won by Buffaz, and the feedzone that followed; cutting it to around three minutes with 90km to go, where it was allowed to hover for some time.

With 50km to go, shortly after the race had passed under the shadow of the Macizo de Montserrat mountain, the gap to the leaders was still 2’47”, but began to fall more quickly as Rabobank joined the chase.

As Buffaz took the second intermediate sprint, in Martorell with 34.3km to go, the gap was down to 1’04”, and the four men’s days at the front of the race were now numbered. With 26km to go the peloton was on their heels; Buffaz and Lindeman tried to hold it off as long as possible, but were passed by a lone attack from Jesus Rosendo (Andalucía)

The Sevillan rider entered the final 25km alone, but was not out ahead for very long.

Katusha leads Rodríguez into his home city and the red jersey sets up the winning move

Katusha was now leading around the series of roundabouts on the outskirts of Barcelona, and keeping the pace high as it took the race into its leader, Rodríguez’ regional capital. Rosendo came down in a solo crash with 15km to go as he misjudged things while trying to bunny-hop a kerb and taco’d his front wheel; he got up slowly however, and sheepishly set about finishing the stage alone.

With 12km to go Movistar, Team Sky and BMC Racing took over and kept the pace high through the city streets, but with ten kilometres Lotto-Belisol and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank moved ahead of them. No one team was able to take full control however, as the peloton topped 60kph on the wide city boulevards.

Argos-Shimano and then Team Sky took the front as the climb to the Alto de Montjuic approached, but then Contador attacked with just over five kilometres to go. The road was not yet steep enough for him to get away though, and he drifted back into the fold.

As the climb began, Ballan put in what was a pre-planned move and forced his way clear at the front. The 2008 world champion was was chased and passed by Rodríguez though, with Gilbert chasing him down, and the two were together as the crossed the top of the climb.

Nicolas Roche was chasing alone on the descent, but was five seconds behind as he flew under the two kilometre banner, and was picked up shortly afterwards. Vacansoleil-DCM and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank were leading the chase, but Tiralongo managed to jump away as the final kilometre began to rise to the line.

Rodríguez was leading into finish, but Gilbert came around him without difficulty to take his first victory of the season. Tiralongo took third, ahead of the chasing pack, which was led in by Marczynski.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) managed to finish in sixth place, in the same time as the former Polish champion, but the rest of the peloton - including Froome and Contador - lost 12 seconds to Rodríguez, which rose to 20 after the time bonuses were added.

Result stage 9
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
2. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha Team
3. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Team Astana @ 7s
4. Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-DCM @ 9s
5. Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
6. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
7. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
8. Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 12s
9. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
10. Igor Antón (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi

Standings after stage 9
1. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha Team
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky @ 53
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank @ 1’00”
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 1’07”
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank @ 2’01”
6. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha Team @ 2’08”
7. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale @ 2’34”
8. Igor Antón (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 3’07”
9. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank @ 3’18”
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank @ 3’27”


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