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Menchov Wins Vuelta Stage 20; Contador Cracks But Keeps Red

By Chris Jasurek
Epoch Times Staff
Created: September 8, 2012 Last Updated: September 8, 2012
Related articles: Sports » Cycling
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Katusha's Denis Menchov celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win Stage 20 of the 2012 Vuelta a España. (Jaime Reina/AFP/GettyImages)

Katusha's Denis Menchov celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win Stage 20 of the 2012 Vuelta a España. (Jaime Reina/AFP/GettyImages)

Despite the big gaps in the general Classification, there was plenty of excitement in the last mountain stage of the 2012 Vuelta a España.

Katusha’s Denis Menchov won the stage, attacking from a 20-rider break with Sky’s Ritchie Porte and then dropping the Sky rider in the final 100 meters.

Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez made a final bid to recapture the race-leader’s red jersey with a strong attack up the ridiculously steep Bola del Mundo climb; he dropped the first- and second-placed riders, Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde and Saxo-Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador, but couldn’t open enough of a gap to advance from his third-placed ranking.

The stage contained five categorized climbs, a Cat 1, a Cat 2, followed by a pair of Cat 1s and the final, Hors Categorie ascent to Bola del Mundo. This 11.4-km climb averaged 8.6 percent, but only because it started easy. The final third of the climb started at 12.5 percent and steepened to an agonizing 23 percent near the peak.

The riders were already tired after the first four climbs—at the top of the Bola most were traveling at walking speed, weaving across the road and collapsing after finishing the stage.

The breakaway took off before the first climb and stayed away until the last climb. The breakaway had a gap of 5:43 over the peloton 20 km from the finish, and all but two of its members got caught on the climb.

Euskaktel set the pace through most of the race; with 15 km left, Movistar took over with Saxo-Tinkoff watching closely. Afew kilometers later, three riders attacked the break: Eros Capecchi (Liquigas,) Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Maxime Bouet (Ag2r) pushed ahead followed a few km later by Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana,) Menchov and Porte.

Porte attacked this group and only De Weeert and Menchov could follow. De Weert struggled and eventually fell away; the other two rode together, with Porte trying escape Menchov, until the final 200 meters of the stage, when Menchov accelerated away.

Porte tried to match the pace, but soon blew up entirely; Menchov gained 17 seconds on the Sky rider in the last fifty meters of the stage as Porte could barely turn the pedals.

In the peloton, Igor Anton of Euskaltel was the first to attack, five km from the finish. Everybody ignored the Euskaltel rider, but not Alejandro Valverde, who made a testing attack 500 meters later. Alberto Contador covered it immediately, and Daniel Moreno and teammate Joaquim Rodriguez joined quickly.

Two Saxo riders moves to the front of the peloton and lifted the pace, then fell off; everyone knew this mean Contador was about to attack but before he could, Joaquim Rodriguez took off. Contador followed; Valverde took a little while, but worked his way up to the other two GC leaders.

When Valverde reached the top two, Rodriguez kicked again, and this time Contador couldn’t respond. Valverde couldn’t either, at first, but then he found something extra and took off after Rodriguez.

The Katusha rider needed 2:21 to catch Contador and take red, but only 46 seconds to pass Valverde for second. Rodriguez was after anything he could get; Valverde didn’t want to lose second, by far his best result since resuming his career a year ago.

An exhausted Alberto Contador is pushed by supporters at the finish line after the climb to Bola del Mundo. (Jaime Reina/AFP/GettyImages)

An exhausted Alberto Contador is pushed by supporters at the finish line after the climb to Bola del Mundo. (Jaime Reina/AFP/GettyImages)

Meanwhile Contador had nothing left. He tried to stay with Valverde to ensure that the Movistar rider wouldn’t take red, but was soon reduced to simply struggling to keep moving forward as the road got steeper and steeper.

Rodriguez gained 1:09 on Contador and 25 seconds on Valverde; not enough to get him into second or first, but a strong showing.

Contador kept the GC lead, and will stand on the top step on the podium in Madrid Sunday, but he was shown to be vulnerable. Valverde, like Contador coming back form, a suspension, has shown ability at least equal to what had had before. Joaquim Rodriguez proved that he can climb with the best, and also turned in a decent time trial. He could be a GC threat in future races.

Vuelta a España Stage 20

 

rider

team

time

1

Denis Menchov

Katusha

4:48:48

2

Richie Porte

Sky

0:00:17

3

Kevin De Weert

Omega Pharma-Quickstep

0:00:42

4

Fredrik Carl Wilhelm Kessiakoff

Astana

0:01:16

5

Romain Sicard

Euskaltel-Euskadi

0:01:39

6

Eros Capecchi

Liquigas-Cannondale

0:02:30

7

Maxime Bouet

AG2R

0:02:39

8

Simon Geschke

Argos-Shimano

0:03:14

9

Joaquim Rodriguez

Katusha

0:03:31

10

Alejandro Valverde

Movistar

0:03:56

General Classification after Ctage 20

 

rider

team

time

1

Alberto Contador

Saxo-Tinkoff

82:14:52

2

Alejandro Valverde

Movistar

0:01:16

3

Joaquim Rodriguez

Katusha

0:01:37

4

Christopher Froome

Sky

0:10:16

5

Daniel Moreno

Katusha

0:11:29

6

Robert Gesink

Rabobank

0:12:23

7

Andrew Talansky

Garmin-Sharp

0:13:28

8

Laurens Ten Dam

Rabobank

0:13:41

9

Igor Anton

Euskaltel-Euskadi

0:14:01

10

Benat Intxausti

Movistar

0:16:13

 

 

 

 




   

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