Will the curse of the rainbow jersey leave its mark on Philippe Gilbert‘s 2013 season? The world champion gave it everything late on today, but he remains winless this year with time fast running out. Mind you, at this stage last season he also had no victories and was looking similarly forlorn before winning stages nine and 19 at the Vuelta and then earning his rainbow stripes in Valkenburg. Could history yet repeat itself?
Stage 5: Sober to Lago de Sanabria, 168.4km
Finally a stage for the sprinters, and after his team laid the groundwork Michael ‘Bling’ Matthews (Orica GreenEDGE) launched his sprint with 200 metres to go and held off Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Lampre-Merida) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) on the slight uphill ramp to the finish. Yesterday the 22-year-old was on the podium, today he was astride it claiming his first grand tour victory in some style.
With two summit finishes in the first three days of this year’s Vuelta a Espana, all eyes were focussed on the top contenders to make an early statement and claim a psychologically-boosting victory. However, few would have predicted either of the victors on Sunday and Monday’s stages: Saxo-Tinkoff’s Nicolas Roche and RadioShack-Leopard veteran Chris Horner.
But should we have been surprised that so-called lesser names stood atop the two end-of-stage podiums? Not really. Here’s why. Continue reading