Vuelta a España: Daniele Bennati sprints to stage twenty victory in Vitoria
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Vuelta a España: Daniele Bennati sprints to stage twenty victory in Vitoria

by Ben Atkins at 12:10 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Race Reports and Results
Leopard Trek’s Italian wins as the only sprinter to make it over the Urkiola; Juan José Cobo absorbs Froome’s final blow to likely win the race overall

daniele bennatiDaniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) won the twentieth stage of the Vuelta a España between Bilbao and Vitoria after his team dominated the final 40km of the stage following the climb of the Puerto de Urkiola. The Italian was the only one of the true sprinters to manage to get over the steep climb and received an armchair ride to the finish by his team to take his seventh career stage of the Vuelta.

Just behind Bennati was Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) but the Italian all-rounder never looked like coming around the Leopard Trek rider; he crossed the line in second place, just ahead of Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale).

“This morning I didn’t have in mind that I could win in Vitoria,” said Bennati afterwards. “The plan was just to wait and see the situation of the race after the climb.”

The stage was dominated by a 27-man breakaway, which included Bennati, which escaped after 27km of the 185km stage. The group was never allowed to get too far away though, and broke up on the 1st category climb of the Urkiola with 50km to go, under the impetus of Carlos Barredo (Rabobank).

“The start was extremely fast like every day,” Bennati explained. “Twenty riders went up the road but nobody from Leopard-Trek was there; it took me only one acceleration to reach the group. I calculated my efforts in the breakaway, and climbed based on my characteristics as a rider. In the first three kilometres, I didn’t look at anyone and it ended up well. I remained in contention for a bunch sprint victory.”

Following the Vuelta, Bennati will head to the World championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he could be the leader of the Italian team on what should be a sprinter’s course.

“The recent history of the World championships says that the rainbow jersey comes out of the Vuelta,” said Bennati. “To be here now with a great condition that’s ahead of many other sprinters is a boost for my morale.

“It was important to finsh in Madrid and I might as well win another time in Madrid tomorrow,” he added.

Barredo tried to stay away to the finish alone, on the flay 40km that followed the climb but, after being replaced in the lead by Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC), the Leopard Trek and Astana teams had things all together with just over two kilometres to go.

Despite the presence of plenty of climbs along the route, as the Vuelta spent a second day in the Basque country, the long distance to the finish from the top of the Urkiola gave Chris Froome (Team Sky) very little hope of making up his 13-second deficit to race leader Juan José Cobo (Geox-TMC).

The last minute decision of the race organisers to move the second intermediate sprint to 16.5km to go caused some drama when Froome mistakenly sprinted for the twenty kilometres to go banner. This led to the attack of Sastre, who took second over the actual sprint, behind Barredo, while Froome’s Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins managed to take third and deny Cobo.

With only the ceremonial 94.2km ceremonial stage into Madrid to come, Cobo has effectively won the 2011 Vuelta a España by one of the slimmest margins ever.

The Basque Country’s second stage offers the slimmest chance to change the race leader

Having taken 33 years to return the Basque Country, the 2011 Vuelta a España was staying for a second day. The 185km stage would take the peloton from the previous day’s finish in Bilbao to the region’s second largest city of Vitoria, crossing many of its hills on the way.

Crossing the 2nd category Alto de Karabieta, the 1st category Alto de Elosua, the 3rd category Alto de Kanpazar and the 1st category Puerto de Urkiola, the stage would, in theory offer Froome a slim chance of closing the thirteen second gap to Cobo. Although the Urkiola was a tough climb though, its summit was to come with 46.4km still to race; the only real chance that Froome had was to hope that Sky could take advantage of the crosswind that might be blowing across the plateau.

Sadly though, the Kenyan-born Briton was not optimistic about his chances of being able to put more pressure on Cobo.

“Most of the Vuelta is over, said Froome at the start. “I’ll try and stay out of trouble and see if there is an opportunity to win but I doubt it.

“I really enjoy the support and the passion there is in the Basque Country for cycling. It’s extremely positive for our sport. It would be good to see more bike races here.”

Whatever Froome tried though, Cobo had prepared his game plan in advance.

“I’m nervous,” he admitted on the start line, “but yesterday, I was nervous too and everyday since I took the jersey it’s been the same. My tactic will not change: I’ll stick on Froome’s wheel.”

A huge break gets away but isn’t allowed to get far

Following a number of unsuccessful one and two-man moves, a group of 27 riders got away at the 27km point. In the group was Bennati, with Barredo and Steven Kruijswijk (both Rabobank), Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Nicolas Roche and Lloyd Mondory (both AG2R La Mondiale), Jose Vicente Toribio (Andalucia-Caja Granada), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Inaki Isasi and Amets Txurruka (both Euskaltel-Euskadi), Leigh Howard (HTC-Highroad), Luca Paolini, Vladimir Karpets and Eduard Vorganov (all Katusha), Marco Marzano, Manuele Mori and Daniele Righi (all Lampre-ISD), Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Jan Bakelandts and Jurgen Van De Walle (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Robert Kiserlovski (Astana), Dario Cataldo (Quck Step), Jaroslaw Marycz and Nick Nuyens (both Saxo Bank-SunGard), Koen De Kort (Skil-Shimano), Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) and Matteo Carrara (Vacasoleil-DCM).

Roche was the best placed in the overall classification, 10’31” back in sixteenth place, although Kiserlovski was also well placed in the standings, 13’27” back in eighteenth. The group’s composition also suited mountains jersey holder David Moncoutié (Cofidis) and points jersey holder Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) since none of their immediate rivals in those classifications would get any points as they would be swallowed up by the leaders.

At the first intermediate sprint in Eibar after 41km, which was taken by Roche, the group was 1’38” ahead. While the six-second bonus might be useful for the Irishman in his quest to step up the overall classification a place or two, it was very useful to Cobo, since it meant that Froome couldn’t have them.

Over the Alto de Karabieta and Alto de Elosua the lead continued to grow, although Cataldo was dropped, reaching 4’10” at the 76km point for the remaining 26 riders. Thanks to the efforts of RadioShack though, it was down to two minutes as they arrived at the feedzone after 100km.

Over the Alto de Kanpazar the lead had been whittled down further, to 1’27”, by the RadioShack team and, as the race left the city of Durango with 55km to go, it dropped to below a minute. There was originally to have been an intermediate sprint in Elorria shortly before this point, but the race organisers had decided at the last minute to move it to Arroiabe with 16.5km to go.

As the peloton closes Barredo makes a solo bid for victory

At the foot of the Urkiola, Barredo set off alone. The Rabobank rider was followed by teammate Kruijswijk, Roche, Kiserlovski, Le Mével, Caruso and Txurruka, but the rest of the breakaway riders were scattered over the ten percent slopes. As Howard became the first rider to be pulled back by the peloton though, the gap was down to just 35 seconds.

RadioShack now just had one rider at the front of the peloton but two-time Vuelta winner Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) was poised to take over on behalf of Cobo. At the back of the peloton though, Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi), the previous day’s winner into Bilbao, was having trouble holding on.

With 50km to go, and 3.6km to climb, Barredo kicked again and managed to get away alone; climbing much faster than the tempo set by RadioShack, the Spanish rider began to open up his lead once more.

With most of the breakaway riders being swept up the peloton Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), who had been one of the most aggressive riders of the race, attacked to protect the mountains points over the top of the climb for teammate Moncoutié.

Riding through similar crowds that were experienced on the Alto El Vivero the day before, Barredo was more than a minute clear as he hit the final kilometre of the climb. Behind him Menchov and Geox-TMC teammate Carlos Sastre put the experience of the four Grand Tour wins between them to work but neither was concerned about Barredo or Mate.

Barredo crossed the top alone, meaning that Moncoutié had won the mountains jersey for the fourth straight year, so long as he could reach Madrid. The Rabobank rider was 36 seconds ahead of the remains of the group, which had been caught by Mate, and the peloton crossed the summit 1’37” behind.

With 40km to go Barredo was persisting, with Txurruka, Le Mével, Roche, Caruso, Kiserlovski, Kruijswijk and Mate chasing behind him. Leopard Trek was on the front of the peloton now, and the gap was closing once more; Geox-TMC was attentively close to the front though, with Cobo tucked in comfortably on the wheel of Froome.

As the Luxembourg team picked up the pace with 30km to go, the peloton pulled back the group of chasers, leaving just Barredo up the road. The Spaniard was now just 33 seconds ahead, but Leopard Trek was not keen to catch him too soon and allowed the gap opened a little once more.

A last minute change to the intermediate sprints leads to embarrassment for Froome

The 20km banner cause confusion in the peloton as Froome attacked, thinking that it was the relocated intermediate sprint. Cobo was glued to his rear wheel though, with Sastre right behind him, and the 2008 Tour de France winner took the opportunity to counterattack.

The sprint did appear a few kilometres later, which was taken by Barredo, ahead of Sastre, and in the fight for third place Wiggins denied the Geox-TMC riders with Froome already having shot his bolt. This meant that the British champion took back the two seconds that Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) took from him the day before, strengthening his hold on his third place overall a little.

Sastre caught Barredo at 15km to go and the two of them were 21 seconds ahead of the peloton, which was still calmly being led by Leopard Trek. Astana joined the chase at the front of the peloton, but at the ten-kilometre banner the two Spanish riders were 31 seconds ahead.

With two teams chasing on the front of the peloton the gap to the two leaders was slowly, but surely, closing and so, with eight kilometres to go, Sastre attacked. Barredo, having been alone out in front for forty kilometres, had no answer to the veteran Geox-TMC rider and was quickly caught by the peloton.

Sastre persisted with his efforts though, perhaps as a final Grand Tour swansong, and, with five kilometres to go, he still had ten seconds. With Leopard Trek in full cry though, with Stuart O’Grady leading the charge, he had no chance of making it to the finish and was caught as he passed under a road bridge with just over two kilometres to go.

Although this was a mountain stage there’s no stopping the bunch sprint now

Kevin De Weert (Quick Step) briefly tried to get off the front but O’Grady calmly pulled him back and, as they entered the final kilometre a number of teams were massing forward as Leopard Trek and Astana kept the pace high.

Into the finishing straight, Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) appear to try to go himself on the opposite side of the road, but Maxime Monfort was towing Bennati to the line; despite his position in sixth overall, the Belgian was standing in for usual Leopard Trek leadout man Robert Wagner, who had been left behind on the final climb.

Bennati moved out from Monfort and, despite Gasparotto getting straight on his wheel but there was no way he was getting around and the Italian took his career seventh Vuelta stage.

Mollema finished ninth, with Rodriguez eleventh, meaning that the two riders were now tied on 115 points each; Rodriguez kept the jersey though, since he had two stage victories in the race so far.

Cobo and Froome finished safely in the peloton behind Bennati, just two places apart, and so the Geox-TMC rider remains thirteen seconds clear. With just the ceremonial stage into Madrid to come, Cobo has the race all but won, by the joint-third smallest margin in history.


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Vuelta a Espana (WorldTour) Stage 20 Results: Bilbao to Vitoria (187km)

  Click on the arrowsat the top of the column to sort the race results.
Country Result Name Team Time
ita ITA 1 Daniele Bennati (LEOPARD - TREK) 04:39:20
ita ITA 2 Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) 00:00:01
ita ITA 3 Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
bel BEL 4 Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
ned NED 5 Koen De Kort (Skil-Shimano) s.t.
ita ITA 6 Manuele Mori (Lampre-ISD) s.t.
ita ITA 7 Davide Malacarne (Quick Step) s.t.
bel BEL 8 Kristof Vandewalle (Quick Step) s.t.
ned NED 9 Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) s.t.
ita ITA 10 Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
esp ESP 11 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha) s.t.
esp ESP 12 Daniel Moreno Fernandéz (Katusha) s.t.
esp ESP 13 Inaki Isasi Flores (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
den DEN 14 Nicki Sørensen (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s.t.
ger GER 15 Dominik Nerz (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
ned NED 16 Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
esp ESP 17 Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Cofidis) s.t.
esp ESP 18 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Movistar) s.t.
den DEN 19 Jakob Fuglsang (LEOPARD - TREK) s.t.
ita ITA 20 Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
irl IRL 21 Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
bel BEL 22 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) s.t.
uzb UZB 23 Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
bel BEL 24 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) s.t.
fra FRA 25 Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
gbr GBR 26 Christopher Froome (Team Sky) s.t.
esp ESP 27 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Rabobank) s.t.
esp ESP 28 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Geox-TMC Transformers) s.t.
bel BEL 29 Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) s.t.
ger GER 30 Johannes Frohlinger (Skil-Shimano) s.t.
bel BEL 31 Francis De Greef (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) s.t.
rus RUS 32 Evgeni Petrov (Astana) s.t.
rus RUS 33 Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC Transformers) s.t.
bel BEL 34 Nico Sijmens (Cofidis) s.t.
bel BEL 35 Maxime Monfort (LEOPARD - TREK) s.t.
den DEN 36 Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s.t.
esp ESP 37 David De La Fuente Rasilla (Geox-TMC Transformers) s.t.
kaz KAZ 38 Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) s.t.
gbr GBR 39 Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) s.t.
irl IRL 40 Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
ita ITA 41 Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar) s.t.
esp ESP 42 Juan José Oroz Ugalde (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
rus RUS 43 Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) s.t.
ita ITA 44 Santo Anza (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
bel BEL 45 Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step) s.t.
bel BEL 46 Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
esp ESP 47 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
bel BEL 48 Olivier Kaisen (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) s.t.
esp ESP 49 Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC Transformers) s.t.
swe SWE 50 Thomas Löfkvist (Team Sky) s.t.
cro CRO 51 Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) s.t.
swe SWE 52 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) s.t.
fra FRA 53 Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) s.t.
fra FRA 54 Mathieu Perget (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
ned NED 55 Marc De Maar (Quick Step) s.t.
esp ESP 56 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
esp ESP 57 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (RadioShack) s.t.
ned NED 58 Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) s.t.
aus AUS 59 Stuart O' Grady (LEOPARD - TREK) s.t.
slo SLO 60 Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) s.t.
est EST 61 Tanel Kangert (Astana) s.t.
por POR 62 Tiago Machado (RadioShack) s.t.
ita ITA 63 Marco Marzano (Lampre-ISD) s.t.
esp ESP 64 Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) s.t.
esp ESP 65 Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
fra FRA 66 David Lelay (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
por POR 67 Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (RadioShack) s.t.
esp ESP 68 Antonio Piedra Perez (Andalucia - Caja Granada) s.t.
aut AUT 69 Thomas Rohregger (LEOPARD - TREK) s.t.
rus RUS 70 Vladimir Karpets (Katusha) s.t.
col COL 71 Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Geox-TMC Transformers) s.t.
esp ESP 72 Jose Vicente Toribio (Andalucia - Caja Granada) s.t.
esp ESP 73 Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
esp ESP 74 Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
esp ESP 75 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Movistar) s.t.
ukr UKR 76 Ruslan Pidgornyy (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
esp ESP 77 Joan Horrach Rippoll (Katusha) s.t.
kaz KAZ 78 Andrey Mizurov (Astana) 00:00:17
fra FRA 79 Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
bel BEL 80 Kevin De Weert (Quick Step) 00:00:21

General classification after stage 20:

Country Result Name Team Time
esp ESP 1 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Geox-TMC Transformers) 82:38:32
gbr GBR 2 Christopher Froome (Team Sky) 00:00:13
gbr GBR 3 Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) 00:01:39
ned NED 4 Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) 00:02:03
rus RUS 5 Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC Transformers) 00:03:48
bel BEL 6 Maxime Monfort (LEOPARD - TREK) 00:04:13
ita ITA 7 Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) 00:04:31
bel BEL 8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) 00:04:45
esp ESP 9 Daniel Moreno Fernandéz (Katusha) 00:05:20
esp ESP 10 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Euskaltel - Euskadi) 00:05:33
den DEN 11 Jakob Fuglsang (LEOPARD - TREK) 00:05:50
den DEN 12 Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Sungard) 00:07:04
irl IRL 13 Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) 00:07:22
ita ITA 14 Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar) 00:08:52
uzb UZB 15 Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM) 00:08:57
irl IRL 16 Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) 00:10:25
ned NED 17 Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) 00:11:42
cro CRO 18 Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) 00:13:27
esp ESP 19 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha) 00:14:31
esp ESP 20 Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC Transformers) 00:19:47
ita ITA 21 Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) 00:20:22
bel BEL 22 Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step) 00:20:54
slo SLO 23 Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) 00:21:06
fra FRA 24 Mathieu Perget (Ag2r-La Mondiale) 00:33:11
esp ESP 25 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (RadioShack) 00:33:14
fra FRA 26 Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r-La Mondiale) 00:36:38
aut AUT 27 Thomas Rohregger (LEOPARD - TREK) 00:40:19
bel BEL 28 Francis De Greef (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) 00:45:16
esp ESP 29 Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel - Euskadi) 00:47:21
por POR 30 Tiago Machado (RadioShack) 00:48:04

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