Bettini continues Italian run in Córdoba
Italian champion Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) has triumphed in the first bunch sprint of this year's Vuelta in Córdoba, beating Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and Luca Paolini (Liquigas) after a well timed final 100 metres. In doing so, Bettini became the fifth Italian winner in eight finishes here. The new race leader is Hushovd, who gained enough bonus seconds en route to move ahead of Carlos Sastre (CSC) on the classification. The latter actually punctured with 2 km to go, but was awarded bunch time.
The first road stage saw an enterprising move by Mario de Sárraga (Relax-Gam) get away after 4 km. He briefly had David de la Fuente with him for company, but the latter went back to the bunch after a mechanical. De Sárraga was able to gain 13'05 over the peloton with 100 km to go, but then lost it all as the sprinters' teams took control over the latter half of the stage. Benoît Joachim (Discovery Channel) and Thierry Marichal (Cofidis) tried a late move with 34 km to go, quickly catching De Sárraga then riding a minute clear. It wasn't enough, and everything was back together at 13 km to go. Things remained like that until the finish, where Robbie McEwen was forced to go too early and ran out of legs with 50 metres to go, allowing Bettini to take a clear victory.