Hesjedal wins Vuelta's Velefique mountain battle, Valverde leader

Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Slipstream) triumphed in the Vuelta a España's mountaintop stage finish on the Alto de Velefique Friday. He finished ahead of Spaniard David Garcia (Xacobeo Galicia) and the classification favourites on the 13.3-kilometre climb to become the first Canadian to win a stage of the Vuelta.

After coming second in stage 10 on Tuesday, Hesjedal's expression was one of relief at getting the win on a tough stage finish.

"It was really difficult," said Hesjedal. "You never know what's going to happen after a rest day. We knew it was going to be a hard day."

Though often victorious in his mountain bike days, it has been two years since Hesjedal won a race. He was Canadian time trial champion in 2007. It was Garmin's second consecutive win in the Vuelta a España after Tyler Farrar's sprint win Wednesday.

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) kept the race leader's gold jersey he took on four days ago on the mountain stage to Xorret del Catí. He survived the attacks by Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank) who were looking to gain back lost time.

However, Gesink was the only overall favourite to gain time today, he finished in third at 10 seconds ahead of Valverde's group. Gesink gained an eight-second bonus for third and is now 18 second behind Valverde and 11 seconds behind Australia's Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto).

American Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) is fourth at 51 seconds and Italian Ivan Basso (Liquigas) is fifth at 53 seconds.

The 179.3-kilometre stage started and ended with the 13.3-kilometre Alto de Velefique climb. It also took in the Calar Alto and Castro de Filabres climb, leaving 16 kilometres to the base of the second ascent of Velefique.

The stage started in Almería, where the riders passed yesterday's second rest day. There were 175 starters and five non-starters:
Farrar, Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil), Vitaliy Buts (Lampre-NGC), Alberto Fernández Sainz (Xacobeo Galicia) and Linus Gerdemann (Milram).

Hesjedal forms successful escape

An early escape which formed before the first climb shaped the stage. Hesjedal, Garcia, Javier Ramírez (Andalucía-Cajasur), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Alexander Vinokourov (Astana), Bingen Fernández (Cofidis), Julien El Farès (Cofidis), Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil), Julián Sánchez (Contentpolis-Ampo), Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and Stuart O'Grady (Saxo Bank) rode clear 27 kilometres into the stage.

Spaniard Arkaitz Durán (Fuji-Servetto) chased solo and joined the 11-man group nearly 20 kilometres later. He was the highest placed rider overall in the escape. He started the day 5:48 behind race leader Valverde, so team Caisse d'Epargne had to watch the escape's advantage.

"We always want to be in the break, and it was good for us," said Hesjedal. "The group worked well together and I had enough time by the start of the last climb."

The 12-man escape group increased its advantage and held seven minutes over the first ascent of Velefique.

Vinokourov, who won the Vuelta on his last attempt of the race in 2006, lost contact with the escape group on the Calar Alto climb at kilometre 109. The others continued up the 26.7-km climb with only an advantage of 4:20 over the Caisse d'Epargne-led chase.

The Spanish team never looked in doubt over the first two climbs of the day. It controlled the time advantage perfectly over the first two climbs to ready leader Valverde for the final ascent of Velefique.

The 11 escapees led with 6:30 at the top of the Calar Alto climb.

Spaniard Garcia, winner of a stage last year in Ponferrada, started to accelerate to the top of Castro de Filabres. Ramírez responded and took maximum points ahead of Cofidis' Fernández and El Farès. The main group topped the climb 4:43 later, leaving 29.3 kilometres to race.

Garcia started the Velefique first, 30 seconds ahead of the other escapees and four minutes on the group of Valverde. Liquigas (for Basso) and Rabobank (Gesink) came to the front with Caisse d'Epargne immediately as the climb started.

The escape exploded by 10 kilometres to race. Garcia led by 30 seconds on Hesjedal and Sánchez, and 3:29 on the classification favourites.

Hesjedal joined Garcia four kilometres later and the two formed an uneasy relationship that lasted to the finish line. Garcia got word that his Xacobeo Galicia teammate Mosquera had attacked and he refused to work with Hesjedal.

Gesink fires ahead of favourites, Hesjedal holds

Mosquera, fourth in the last year's Vuelta, forced a chase and thinned the favourites group. Valverde's teammates Vasil Kiryienka and Daniel Moreno continued to chase. The lead duo had 53 seconds on Mosquera and 1:10 on Valverde's group at three kilometres to race.

The duo's lead to Mosquera continued to drop over the next kilometre and it looked like one of the classification favourites would win the stage. Gesink attacked with 1.5 kilometres to race and immediately joined Mosquera. Valverde, Danielson, Evans, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC), Juan José Cobo (Fuji-Servetto) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) chased.

Hesjedal and Garcia had 22 seconds on Gesink/Mascara and 36 seconds on Valverde with one kilometre to race. Hesjedal saw Gesink was closing in and started his push for victory in the last 500 metres. He held off Garcia by one second and Gesink by six seconds.

Vino abandons comeback

Vinokourov and Astana teammate José Luis Rubiera (Astana) abandoned the stage shortly after the final ascent of Velefique started. Vinokourov started his comeback in cycling with team Astana at the Vuelta a España, a race he won in 2006. He blood doped during the 2007 Tour de France and served a subsequent two-year suspension.

Germany's Paul Martens (Rabobank) and Italy's Francesco Tomei (Lampre-NGC) abandoned earlier in the stage.

More mountains ahead

The Vuelta continues this weekend with two mountaintop stage finishes. Saturday stage covers 172.4 kilometres and ends with the Sierra Nevada, 16.9 kilometres long and an average of 5.5 percent gradient. Sunday's stage covers 157 kilometres to La Pandera, 8.4 kilometres and an eight percent average.

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Full Results
1Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Slipstream5:34:31
2David Garcia (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia0:00:01
3Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank0:00:06
4Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia
5Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-NGC0:00:16
6Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
7Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto
8Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas
9Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Slipstream
10Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
11Juan José Cobo (Spa) Fuji-Servetto0:00:21
12Joaquím Rodríguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:00:28
13Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas0:00:33
14Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Lampre-NGC0:00:34
15Daniel Moreno (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:00:50
16Daniel Navarro (Spa) Astana0:00:53
17Igor Antón (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:01:24
18Philip Deignan (Irl) Cervélo TestTeam0:01:26
19Julián Sánchez (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo0:01:32
20Beñat Intxausti (Spa) Fuji-Servetto0:01:44
21Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d'Epargne0:01:59
22Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil0:02:11
23Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Astana0:02:18
24Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux
25Iñigo Cuesta (Spa) Cervélo TestTeam
26Bingen Fernández (Spa) Cofidis
27Amaël Moinard (Fra) Cofidis0:02:43
28Manuel Váquez (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo0:03:08
29Mickaël Chérel (Fra) Française des Jeux0:03:13
30Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Xacobeo Galicia
31Jesús Hernández (Spa) Astana
32Françis De Greef (Bel) Silence-Lotto0:03:16
33Xavier Tondo (Spa) Andalucía-Cajasur0:03:18
34Gustavo César Veloso (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia
35Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick Step0:04:02
36Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank
37Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Saxo Bank0:04:14
38José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Cervélo TestTeam0:04:19
39Amets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
40Julien El Farès (Fra) Cofidis0:04:49
41David De LFuente (Spa) Fuji-Servetto0:05:09
42Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R LMondiale0:05:31
43Iñaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:06:24
44Javier Ramírez (Spa) Andalucía-Cajasur0:06:38
45Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R LMondiale0:06:44
46Olivier Bonnaire (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom0:07:23
47Arkaitz Durán (Spa) Fuji-Servetto0:07:32
48Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Silence-Lotto0:07:47
49David López Garcí(Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:08:20
50Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra) Française des Jeux
51Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
52Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Slipstream
53David Moncoutié (Fra) Cofidis
54Matti Breschel (Den) Saxo Bank0:09:11
55Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank0:09:12
56Christian Knees (Ger) Milram0:09:54
57Christian Meier (Can) Garmin-Slipstream
58Serafín Martínez (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia
59Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Silence-Lotto
60Mickaël Delage (Fra) Silence-Lotto
61Manuel Calvente (Spa) Andalucía-Cajasur
62Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Silence-Lotto
63Francisco José Martínez (Spa) Andalucía-Cajasur
64Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step
65Gonzalo Rabuñal (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia
66Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil
67Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Saxo Bank
68Koos Moerenhout (Ned) Rabobank
69Damien Monier (Fra) Cofidis
70José Ruiz (Spa) Andalucía-Cajasur0:11:30
71Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil0:13:04
72Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Liquigas
73Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil
74Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank0:14:41
75Matthias Russ (Ger) Milram
76Mickaël Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis
77Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank
78Matthé Pronk (Ned) Vacansoleil
79David Herrero (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia0:16:20
80Juan Manuel Gárate (Spa) Rabobank
81Egoi Martínez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
82Aitor Hernández (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
83Jesús Rosendo (Spa) Andalucía-Cajasur
84Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R LMondiale
85Rein Taaramäe (Est) Cofidis
86Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil
87Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-NGC0:20:36
88André Greipel (Ger) Columbia-HTC
89Kjell Carlström (Fin) Liquigas
90Roger Hammond (GBr) Cervélo TestTeam
91Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step
92Marco Velo (Ita) Quick Step
93Alan Pérez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
94Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Columbia-HTC
95Bert Grabsch (Ger) Columbia-HTC
96Vicente Reynes (Spa) Columbia-HTC
97Emanuele Bindi (Ita) Lampre-NGC
98Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
99Aitor Pérez Arrieta (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo
100Simon Gerrans (Aus) Cervélo TestTeam
101Christophe Brandt (Bel) Silence-Lotto
102Markel Irizar (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
103Alexander Efimkin (Rus) AG2R LMondiale
104Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step
105Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil
106Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Fuji-Servetto
107Rubén Pérez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
108Sergio Dominguez Munoz (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo
109Francisco Jose Pacheco Torres (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo
110Mathieu Ladagnous (Fra) Française des Jeux
111Adrián Palomares (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo
112Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervélo TestTeam
113Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R LMondiale
114Dominique Rollin (Can) Cervélo TestTeam
115Gustavo Dominguez (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia
116Jesús Del Nero (Spa) Fuji-Servetto
117Timothy Gudsell (NZl) Française des Jeux
118Gregory Henderson (NZl) Columbia-HTC
119Arnaud Gerard (Fra) Française des Jeux
120Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Française des Jeux
121Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas
122Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin-Slipstream
123Dominik Roels (Ger) Milram
124Michael Schär (Swi) Astana
125Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank
126Julien Loubet (Fra) AG2R LMondiale
127Martin Velits (Svk) Milram
128Davide Viganò (Ita) Fuji-Servetto
129Eros Capecchi (Ita) Fuji-Servetto
130Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Cervélo TestTeam
131Maarten Wynants (Bel) Quick Step
132Massimiliano Mori (Ita) Lampre-NGC
133David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Slipstream
134Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Saxo Bank
135Tom Leezer (Ned) Rabobank
136José Luis Arrieta (Spa) AG2R LMondiale
137Imanol Erviti (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
138Adam Hansen (Aus) Columbia-HTC
139Ludovic Turpin (Fra) AG2R LMondiale
140Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Lampre-NGC
141Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis
142Jean Eudes Demaret (Fra) Cofidis
143Jürgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto
144William Bonnet (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
145Svein Tuft (Can) Garmin-Slipstream
146Jens Mouris (Ned) Vacansoleil
147Ignas Konovalovas (Ltu) Cervélo TestTeam
148Paul Voss (Ger) Milram
149Frantisek Rabon (Cze) Columbia-HTC
150Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Saxo Bank
151Anthony Roux (Fra) Française des Jeux
152Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas
153Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Liquigas
154Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas
155Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana
156Damien Gaudin (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
157Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas
158Marco Marzano (Ita) Lampre-NGC
159Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana
160Xabier Zandio (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
161Javier Benitez (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo
162Karsten Kroon (Ned) Saxo Bank
163Franck Bouyer (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
164Antonio Piedra (Spa) Andalucía-Cajasur
165Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin-Slipstream0:22:18
166José Vicente Garcia (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:22:49
167Francisco Pérez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
168Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Milram0:22:58
169Björn Schröder (Ger) Milram
170Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française des Jeux0:23:20
DNSTyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Slipstream
DNSVitaliy Buts (Ukr) Lampre-NGC
DNSLinus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram
DNSMarco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil
DNSAlberto Fernández Sainz (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia
DNFJosé Luis Rubiera (Spa) Astana
DNFAlexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana
DNFPierrick Fédrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
DNFFrancesco Tomei (Ita) Lampre-NGC
DNFPaul Martens (Ger) Rabobank
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1Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Slipstream25pts
2David Garcia (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia20
3Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank16
4Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia14
5Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-NGC12
6Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne10
7Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto9
8Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas8
9Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Slipstream7
10Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi6
11Juan José Cobo (Spa) Fuji-Servetto5
12Joaquím Rodríguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne4
13Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas3
14Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Lampre-NGC2
15Daniel Moreno (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne1
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Sprint 1 - Bacares, km. 70,1
1Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil4pts