By Susan Westemeyer and Hernan Alvarez
Crashes marred stage seven of the Vuelta a España Friday and influenced the outcome for the day, but not the overall classification. Milram's Erik Zabel won the 176.3 mile race from Calahorra to Zaragoza, but some other riders didn't fare so well. Two kilometers from the end, a crash, due in part to curving roads and heavy winds, blocked the way for all but about 12 riders.
"Petacchi was the only one of us involved in the crash two kilometres before the finish, fortunately," the 37 year-old Zabel said. "There were five riders in front, including Marco Velo, who of course waited for us. Then Alberto Ongarato closed the gap, so I could move all the way up and take the sprint."
Daniele Bennati (Lampre Fondital) and triple stage winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank) were delayed by the crash, too. Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Innergetic) and Bennati went down, and Bennati suffered a contusion on his right hand, the same injured in Sunday's fall.
With 30 kilometres to go, the day's first mass crash had slowed the peloton's chase of break riders. Bert Roesems (Predictor-Lotto) had to be taken off in an ambulance due to a hip injury.
Saunier Duval-Prodir got some crash-related bad news, too. Alberto Fernández de la Puebla, whose right knee was in pain after a fall in Luarca, was forced to pull out Friday. In that fall, he had also cut his chin, which needed ten stitches.