Cunego doubles up in Spain
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cunego doubles up in Spain

by Bjorn Haake at 12:16 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Race Reports and Results

Brilliant comeback defense by Valverde

Damiano Cunego soloed to his second stage victory in one of toughest days in this year's Vuelta a España up to La Pandera. He left his six break companions behind at the beginning of the final climb to win by over two minutes.

Alejandro Valverde was put on the defensive in the 14th stage of the Vuelta a España but made a brilliant comeback to save his golden jersey. Samuel Sánchez passed Ivan Basso in the overall, while Cadel Evans lost more time. Valverde leads Gesink by 31 seconds and Sánchez by 1'10.

The day was marked by heavy rain and relentless climbing in the last part of the race. The day's winner confirmed the difficulty. "It was very tough," Cunego said. "I tried to get into the break from kilometer 0."

He put the disappointment of the previous stage behind. "You know, yesterday I was in the gruppetto, so today I tried everything to win."

When asked about who would take the Vuelta's overall, Cunego answered without hesitation. "Valverde will win tranquilo; he and his team look very much in control."

Cunego may not have known yet about today's drama, when Caisse lost control of the race on the Pandera. Subsequent attacks by Ivan Basso, Cadel Evans, Robert Gesink, Samuel Sánchez and Ezequiel Mosquera in the final four kilometers put Valverde behind.

The Spaniard looked as he had cracked but was able to come back with two kilometers to go. He passed Basso and Evans, rejoined Gesink and limited his losses to Sánchez and Mosquera.

Sánchez was slow to respond but caught up with Mosquera before the finish, and sprinted past him for third place and the eight-second time bonus.

Cunego in every move

There were numerous attacks in the first hour and Damiano Cunego was involved in every one. It was no surprise that he made the move that stuck after 40km. He was joined by Christian Knees, Jakob Fuglsang, Adrian Palomares, Gonzalo Rabuñal, Alan Pérez, Bram Tankink, Xavier Florencio and Kevin De Weert.

The riders covered 49km in the first hour.

The break consistently increased its advantage and they topped the first the climb of the day almost ten minutes ahead of the bunch. Rabuñal received the full KOM points, ahead of Palomares, Tanking and Florencio.

The riders had to fight the rain today and the slippery roads made for a careful approach to the first intermediate sprint of the day at km 124. De Weert was ahead of Florencio and Palomares.

This sprint also marked the beginning of the climb, as the last 35km were virtually all uphill. Like yesterday, there were two ranked mountains on the run into the finish. The Alto de los Villares (cat 2) had four kilometers of rolling terrain before hitting the hors catégory Alto Sierra de Pandera.

The second sprint was located once again at the end of a longer uphill. De Weert took the sprint and a little later also opened the attacks. Palomares was also aggressive, but it was Cunego who was able to get away.

The Italian was about half a minute ahead of his former break companions over the top of the Villares and four and a half minutes over the peloton, controlled by Liquigas.

Basso made his move with four kilometers left to race. Valverde lost contact and Evans saw his chance. With pitches of up to 14% the Australian took Gesink and Mosquera with him. Gesink was the next to move. But the gaps were small, and it was Mosquera who finally separated himself from the group.

Sánchez couldn't go with the initial attacks, but made a strong comeback and passed the others one by one. He finally caught up with Mosquera before the flamme rouge. Sánchez stormed past Mosquera, gained two seconds and the bonus.

Valverde received some unlikely help from Juan José Cobo and found his legs again. Out of the saddle, he stormed back up to Gesink with two kilometers to go. On the flatter part he managed to put the Dutchman on the defensive, taking another four seconds out of him.


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