Tim’s tip for the day Philippe Gilbert (BMC) won the stage – his second of this Vuelta – with apparent ease after a great lead-out by teammate Alessandro Ballan. PhilGil easily overtook the group which had escaped in the final few kilometres and who, having possibly underestimated the difficulty of the finish, were going backwards when he sailed past. He’s coming nicely into form ahead of the World Championships in Valkenburg on one of his favourite stomping grounds.
The stage took rather longer than anyone had anticipated as the boys tried to conserve their remaining – albeit dwindling – stores of energy for the ramp finish today and tomorrow’s monster stage. Aitor Galdos (Caja Rural) and Jose Toribio (Andalucia) set up the day’s break right from the start, building a healthy lead of around ten minutes before being gradually wound back in with 30km remaining. The boys, led by Movistar, then finally upped the pace to prevent any further attacks and possibly after having been given a deadline by the host broadcaster whose scheduling was being shot to bits by their dawdling. There was a flurry of excitement at the last intermediate sprint point with former red jersey Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) taking four bonus seconds and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) one.
4km from the finish, Egoitz Garcia (Cofidis) attacked and was joined by Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), four-time stage winner John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), Nico Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) and Matti Breschel (Rabobank). Behind them, former world champion Ballan was getting Gilbert into position to launch his successful strike with only 500 metres left to cover and the others rapidly fading. Yesterday’s runner-up, Sky’s Ben Swift, jumped with Gilbert but was unable to maintain his challenge. Runner-up on the stage was Valverde, while Purito’s (now former!) best friend Dani Moreno was third, denying his fourth-placed team leader valuable bonus seconds.
VeloVoices rider of the day
For the third time in less than a week, Alessandro Ballan has played a key role in the day’s stage. Today he set up the winner, teammate Gilbert. plus he animated stages 14 and 17 by getting into the breakaway. What’s more, as if more were needed, according to Kitty-fave Taylor Phinney, he’s a really nice chap. Ballan’s efforts were much appreciated by the team and, in particular, BMC manager John Lelangue.
It was a bit of a languid stage [let’s just call it boring and be done with it – Ed] but we were treated to a few scenic gems. An overhead shot of the peloton snaking down a series of hairpin bends into a gorge and then, finally, the magnificent Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage site encased within old city walls which includes a striking and well-preserved Roman aqueduct, dating back to 1AD, towering to 28 metres and featuring 166 arches and 120 columns on two levels. As if that isn’t enough there is also a 16th century Gothic Cathedral and the nearby 14th century Alcazar, a former Royal Palace.
There were no changes to any of the jerseys. Race leader Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) conceded three seconds on the line to Valverde who, with time bonuses, is now 1:35 back with Rodriguez at 2:21. Interestingly both Valverde and Rodriguez made a determined effort to collect bonus seconds today. That’s right, they’ve not capitulated – or at the very least they are aware that the battle for second place remains very much alive. It’s going to go down to the wire. Tomorrow will be epic.
VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of as many stages as possible on Twitter, reviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.