Hesjedal's comeback win
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Hesjedal's comeback win

by Bjorn Haake at 12:53 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Race Reports and Results
Ryder Hesjedal became the first-ever Canadian to win a stage in the Vuelta a España, when he outfoxed David Garcia on the top of the Alto de Velefique. Hesjedal tricked Garcia into opening the sprint, then came around easily and crossed the line with a huge smile on his face.

Robert Gesink made a late attack to get the eight-second bonus for third and finished ten seconds ahead of a small group including race leader Alejandro Valverde. Gesink sits now only 18 seconds behind Valverde in the overall classification.

It was Hesjedal's second major victory, after the team time trial win with his Garmin team in the 2008 Giro. "It was very difficult today, since you don't know what happens after the rest day," Hesjedal said after the race. He was part of a 12-man group that only fell apart on the final climb of the day. "Being in the break was good for us, so Tom [Danielson] could stay quietly behind the favorites."

Garcia made his move after the category three Filabres. He went on to win the premio solidario, but was caught by Hesjedal on the final climb, with less than six kilometers to go. Hesjedal was forced to do all the work, as Garcia's teammate Ezequiel Mosquera came up from behind.

Mosquera's second attack splintered the main field, with Valverde, Gesink, Cadel Evans, Damiano Cunego, Tom Danielson, Ivan Basso and Samuel Sánchez staying together, but the gap never went much past 20 seconds.

Gesink then launched his move inside the 2km banner and quickly reached Mosquera. The two frantically pedaled after the leading duo, coming up short by a handful of seconds. Still, both Gesink and Mosquera gained valuable time in the overall. Mosquera is in eighth place overall, 2'14 behind Valverde.

The leading dozen

After several unsuccessful attacks, a group of 11 finally got away. It contained among others Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Slipstream), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Stuart O'Grady (Saxo Bank), Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil) and Alexander Vinokourov (Astana). Then Arkaitz Durán (Fuji-Servetto) joined the group after a 15km high-speed chase.

Bozic, placed fourth in the points classification, warmed up on the climb with a little attack. He was quickly neutralized, but after the descent took the first intermediate sprint.

The maximum gap was around eight minutes for the leading dozen, as they tackled the second climb of the day, the Alto de Calar Alto. During the ascent, Vinokourov lost contact with the group, leaving 11 at the front. The Kazakh rider later abandoned the race.

The group sprinted it out once again over the top of the second climb, with Javier Ramírez (Andalucía-Cajasur) ahead of Julien El Farès and Julián Sánchez (Contentpolis-Ampo). Sánchez was the best placed break rider in the mountains classification and El Farès tried to defend the interest of his Cofidis teammate David Moncoutié, the leader of the Bordeaux-red climber's jersey.

The second intermediate sprint could have been confused with the KOM, as it came at the top of a little rise. Bozic attacked early to make sure the points were his.

Behind, Caisse d'Epargne was controlling the pace and was not too much in a hurry. Over the third climb of the day, the Filabres, the gap was still almost five minutes.

Sánchez didn't look as sharp anymore, unable to collect additional climbing points. Ramírez went over the top in first, while Garcia left the break on his solo adventure shortly thereafter.

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