Ain't no puncture bad enough... for Van Heeswijk
Max Van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel) proved his excellent form once again today by winning stage 7 of this year's Vuelta a España from Teruel to Vinaros. After 212.5 kilometres of racing, the Dutchman was the strongest rider in the coastal finish town, taking the victory just ahead of German Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) and Italian Alberto Ongarato (Fassa Bortolo) in a bunch sprint finish.
What's more, Van Heeswijk, who won two stages of the Eneco Tour earlier this month, punctured before the finale with 15 kilometres to go.
"It was very impressive of Van Heeswijk," CSC sports director Kim Andersen explained. "He bridged back to the peloton all by himself after his puncture and still had strength left over for the sprint, even though the pace was high towards the end of the stage. Christian Vande Velde crashed during the final descent, but he wasn't seriously hurt and managed to finish in the main peloton, while Linus Gerdemann lost some time because he's suffering from a back ache."
Flat stage favourite Alessandro Petacchi was nowhere to be seen in the finale, also because of a mechanical. But Petacchi was unable to rejoin the bunch and finished 152nd, 3'10 behind. Overall leader Roberto Heras secured six more bonus seconds by winning the last intermediate sprint on the parcours.
German team Gerolsteiner was also happy with today's result: Young talent Heinrich Haussler got eleventh in the bunch sprint. "Heinrich really got a great result out of that situation," DS Raimund Dietzen said. "He was practically left on his own [after teammates were waiting for Haselbacher, who also punctured] - the boy is a lot of fun to watch!" The Australo-German is racing his first Grand Tour.
A six-man break composed of Iñigo Cuesta (Saunier), Eladio Jimenez Sanchez (Comunidad Valenciana), Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step), Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) and Benoît Poilvet (Crédit Agricole) was away for most of the stage, but on the second half of the route, which was all downhill, it was easy for the peloton to reel them in again.