Stage 13: Burgos - La Bien Aparecida
Sanchez takes first pro win in strange finale
What a strange finale. Thinking he had won the stage, Mauricio Ardila (Davitamon-Lotto) raised his arms in celebration - except the finish line was still 100 metres ahead of him! Capitalising on the confusion was Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who flew past Sanchez and outsprinted Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) to earn his first professional career victory and the team's second win this week.
Despite yesterday's crash, most notably affecting Roberto Heras (Liberty-Würth), the top positions on GC didn't change as Denis Menchov (Rabobank) continued to lead the Vuelta over Heras and Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears).
It was a super fast stage with a speed average of 49.5 km/h, and it was the first time in the race that a breakaway succeeded, attempts that were sullied by Fassa Bortolo's Silver Train on previous occasions. Sanchez was naturally happy with his triumph, despite the strange finale: "Sometimes cycling is not fair and these kind of things happen," said the Basque rider, dedicating the victory to his mother. "This is my first victory in a Grand Tour," said a proud Sanchez.
Surprisingly, Ardila took out his frustrations in his stride, calming saying: "That's cycling."
"I made a mistake, but I have to learn from this. It was a shame because today I was going pretty strong and I was really ready to win. I had the chance, but you know... these things happen. There will be another day."
Said second-placed Oscar Pereiro after the stage: "I couldn't do it, but there was a very good chance of winning. I was really confused at the end and when Samuel passed me I was baffled. Well, tomorrow will be another day."
How it unfolded
There were now just 152 survivors remaining in the 2005 Vuelta. Jakob Piil (CSC) abandoned yesterday, Jose Antonio Pecharroman (Quick Step) reached Burgos but finished outside the time limit, and Benoit Joachim, Jose Azevedo (Discovery Channel) and Niels Scheuneman (Rabobank) didn't take the start in Burgos today.
Many riders were on the lookout for the early breakaway, but this didn't happen. On the contrary, the peloton rode together at speeds reaching 80 km/h until, like yesterday, a crash happened at km 22. Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) was among those involved and also Tom Steels (Davitamon-Lotto), the latter rider leaving the race in an unconscious state but was later reported to be in a stable condition in hospital. Pedro Horrillo, Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank) and Dariusz Baranowski (Liberty-Würth) were also injured, but kept on racing.
Some kilometres later, a very large group left the peloton, comprised of 32 riders including Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), Joaquin Rodriguez, Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval) and Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas-Bianchi), among others. At the first intermediate sprint in Moneo (km 83.7), the gap to the peloton was 1'50.
Due to a truck stuck on the road heading to the climb of Alto de la Sia, a late course change had to be made, which saw the riders tackle a different climb, to Puerto de Los Tornos. Consequently, the stage was shortened by three kilometres, 193 instead of 196.
At km 101, three riders attacked the break: David Latasa (Comunidad Valenciana), Mauricio Ardila (Davitamon-Lotto) and Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval). 36 kilometres later, the trio extended their lead to the peloton to 2 minutes and 30 seconds, with Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) in hot pursuit.
The Phonak rider caught the three breakaways some miles later. But at km 167 (26 km to go) the gap was very slim, just 32 seconds between themselves and the peloton, which saw another four riders join shortly thereafter: Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile), Joan Horrach and Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears). Still, the tempo within the bunch was very fast indeed, and it seemed the peloton would catch the eight leaders.
However, for the first time in the race, a breakaway ended at the finish line. As the octet rode up the climb of Santuario de la Bien Aparecida, the attacks began. Ardila, Pereiro, Sevilla and Horrach attacked the other four and got some advantage. With one kilometre to go, Pereiro and Ardila looked the best, with the Spaniard leading the race by a few seconds before the Colombian took over inside the last kilometre. But to both their surprise, Samuel Sanchez came from behind to join the duo.
With 100 metres to go, Ardila gapped them, thinking a billboard very near the finish marked the line - but he was wrong. The finish line was 100 meters ahead! At that moment, Sanchez made the most of the Colombian's misfortune and crossed the line ahead of Pereiro, with Ardila a sour third, banging his bars in frustration.
Stage 14 - September 10: La Penilla-Lagos de Covadonga, 172.3 km
This is one of the key stages of the Vuelta, with the climb of Lagos de Covadonga is famous for its toughness. The stage will commence in La Penilla and will end at the aforementioned mountain, but there are four other climbs along the way: Alto de Carmona (Category 2, 600 m. above sea level, km 42.4), Collada de Ozalba (Cat. 2, 560 m., km 66.3), Collada de la Hoz (Cat. 2, 670 m., km 80.2) and Alto de Ortiguero (Cat. 3, 440 m., km 136.4). The stage will certainly be decided in Lagos (Cat. Special, 1110 m., stage finish) where the big favourites will give it their all. Lagos de Covadonga is 14.3 km. long mountain with an average gradient of 6.5% and sections up to 13%, so it will pose a challenge for all riders, especially those who aren't climbers.
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