Movistar’s Javier Moreno claimed victory in the 27th edition of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon after finishing second on the third and final stage around Segovia. This allowed the team to pay homage to last year’s winner, the late Xavier Tondo, who died in a tragic domestic accident 11 months ago.
The race started on Friday 13th in Salamanca. After months of speculation as to whether or not sufficient funding would be found, it finally went ahead – albeit reduced from five to three stages. This meant foregoing the classic time-trial which inevitably changed the nature of the course, generally viewed as an attractive tune-up option for the Giro d’Italia.
The race was also shorn of three-time winner Alberto Contador (2007, 2008 and 2010) which race director Jose Luis Cerron admitted was a great loss. Other recent race winners such as Levi Leipheimer (2009) and Alexandre Vinokourov (2006), didn’t take part. Indeed, only Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun), fifth last year, returned from last year’s overall top five.
The 2012 event started with a lumpy 159.2km stage around Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage site, followed by a hilly 158.7km stage around Avila featuring four cat. 2 climbs. The race climaxed with a 173.5km mountain stage based in Segovia taking in three cat. 1 climbs. None of the stages had uphill or summit finishes.
This year’s race featured 20 teams but only four ProTour teams, compared to six last year: Movistar, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Rabobank and RadioShack-Nissan.
Stage 1: Salamanca to Salamanca, 159.2km
Friday 13th wasn’t an unlucky day for former RadioShack rider Manuel Cardoso (Caja Rural), who delivered his and his team’s first victory of the season. He won the bunch sprint for the line ahead of Enrique Sanz (Movistar) and Francisco Pacheco (Gios-Deyser).
After an hour of racing and several abortive attempts to establish a breakaway, a quartet finally succeeded – Walter Pedraza (EPM-UNE), Romain Zingle (Cofidis), Sergey Shilov (Lokosphinx) and Alexander Wetterhall (Endura Racing) – who opened up a gap of seven minutes as Rabobank controlled the peloton. Although strong crosswinds split the bunch, everyone was back together with less than 5km remaining to set up the bunch sprint where Cardoso prevailed to take the leader’s jersey.
Stage 2: Avila to Avila, 157.6km
Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), recent Paris-Nice stage winner in Sisteron, came from behind twice on a nine-man move up the famous ‘wall of Avila’ to take the second stage and the overall lead in the tiring, cold and wet conditions, two seconds ahead of Guillaume Levarlet (Saur-Sojasun) and Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
The conditions proved too much for one of the race favourites, Andreas Kloden (RadioShack-Nissan), who climbed off in the feed zone, along with 20 other riders. [Well, they do say the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain – Ed.] Large numbers of riders, including another pre-race favourite, Vuelta winner Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar), lost over ten minutes, thereby dramatically reducing the number of contenders for the overall going into Sunday’s queen stage.
Stage 3: Segovia to Segovia, 173.5km
There was some doubt as to whether the final stage would go ahead on account of the cold weather conditions, with snow on some of the roads. Linus Gerdermann (RadioShack-Nissan), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Stefan Schumacher (Cristina Watches) suggested the stage be replaced with a circuit race around Segovia. Finally, at the urging of overnight race leader Luis Leon Sanchez, the peloton left Segovia, albeit over ten minutes later than scheduled.
A group of 11 riders, none of them GC threats, went away on the first hill, only to be joined by several others. They enjoyed a lead of over four minutes by the second climb of the day.
Rabobank and Euskaltel-Euskadi worked together to reduce the deficit but on the final climb of the day, Saturday’s protagonists and GC threats Guillaume Levarlet, Pablo Urtasun, Javier Moreno (Movistar) and Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan) bridged across to the now 24-strong leading group over the summit, leaving the peloton containing ‘LuisLe’, who’d been abandoned by his Rabobank team mates. In the final kilometres, Moreno left Levarlet trailing to finish second behind stage winner Yelko Gomez(Caja Rural), taking the six-second bonus to leap onto the top step of the podium. Urtasun finished third.
Afterwards Moreno said on the Movistar website:
I have no words to thank my mates for their help. This is my most important victory. I won in Asturias last year, but the field was stronger here, plus it has a special meaning thanks to Xavi Tondo. We came here with the intention to dedicate a victory to him, and we did it.
I have spent the start of the season helping Alejandro [Valverde] and my team-mates, something I’m really happy to do, but we were a bit more free here and I profited from that. Now I hope to keep this form alive in Rioja and Asturias, my next races.
Walter Pedroza (EPM-UNE) won the mountains jersey, Movistar were best team and Moreno, not content with just the overall, took all the other jerseys.
1. Javier Moreno (Movistar) 12:46:05
2. Guillaume Levarlet (Saur-Sojasun) +0:01
3. Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:03
4. David De La Cruz (Caja Rural) +0:10
5. Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan) +0:19
6. Jose Toribio (Andalucia) +0:30
7. Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar) +1:36
8. Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan) +1:41
9. Ivan Velasco (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +1:50
10. David Blanco (Efapel-Glassdrive) +3:13
Link: Official website