Stage 12: Maella to Tarragona, 164.2km
Resplendent in his all-white world champion’s kit, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) looked positively majestic as he waited in the pack for the right moment to pounce. His patience was rewarded as he closed down and overhauled Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), who’d attacked from 350 metres out, to take his maiden victory of the season and his first win in the rainbow jersey. Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Lampre-Merida) rounded out the podium.
The day’s obligatory break formed within the first five kilometres, with Romain Zingle (Cofidis) and Cedric Pineau (FDJ) hitching a ride with a Ferrari – Caja Rural’s Fabricio Ferrari. But with just 18kms remaining, they were throttled back by the combined efforts of Orica-GreenEDGE, Garmin-Sharp and Argos-Shimano.
The pace had been kicked up early as some of the overall contenders sought to profit from the few bonus seconds on offer at the final intermediate sprint point at 15kms to go. Ivan Basso (Cannondale) took the honours, ahead of Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff).
Just as the bunch relaxed its pace and guard, yesterday’s runner-up Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) attacked and quickly gained 20 bike lengths. Momentary panic and indecision in the chasing peloton saw his advantage extend to 11 seconds before BMC led the pursuit and the Panzerwagen was disarmed with just over 10kms to go. This left the sprint trains forced to engage their efforts rather earlier than they might have liked.
Lotto-Belisol and Orica GreenEDGE led the peloton through the final assault course at a fast tempo, stringing out the bunch and setting a relentless pace. Boasson Hagen went long and surged up the final ramp hotly pursued by Gilbert, who went straight past to finish a bike length clear. Race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished comfortably in the peloton to maintain his overall lead, with only a few seconds conceded to Basso and Roche.
VeloVoices rider of the day
He started this race a bit out of sorts with eight stitches on his left knee from an injury he sustained in a fall in the Eneco Tour but, in a similar fashion to last year, Philippe Gilbert is coming into his form of the season. After narrowly missing out to Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) on stage seven, his patience was finally rewarded. He sat in the wheels until the time was right to strike to take his maiden victory in the world champion’s rainbow jersey. It’s been a long time coming but it was worth waiting for, as Gilbert affirmed:
I’m very happy to take my first victory [of the season] here. It’s a special day because I have family here in this area – Catalonia.
There were a lot of roundabouts, curves and bad roads [in the finale]. That’s why I made the choice to ride the last 20 kilometres in front in the first 10 positions.
This probably won’t be the last we hear of Gilbert as tomorrow’s stage has got his name all over it. That should set him up nicely for a stout defence of the rainbow jersey at the end of the month in Tuscany.
Analysis & opinion
No changes in the overall today or the jerseys, although it was another opportunity lost for the sprinters. The final few kilometres could have been tricky but, with safety uppermost, the final neutral zone had been extended from three to five kilometres due to the highly technical finish, which included roundabouts, hairpins and chicanes. Moments after passing that point on the course, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) had a rear flat and thereby avoided slipping down the classification. Others took the advantage to snatch back a few bonus seconds at the final intermediate sprint. It’s too early to say whether or not it was a smart move on the part of Messrs Basso and Roche, we won’t know until the final week.
Stage 12 result
1. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) 04:03:44
2. Edvald Boassen Hagen (Sky) same time
3. Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Lampre-Merida) s/t
4. Luca Paolini (Katusha) s/t
5. Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) s/t
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 45:26:06
2. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:31
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:46
4. Chris Horner (RadioShack Leopard) s/t
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +2:33
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +2:44
7. Ivan Basso (Cannondale) +2:52
8. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +03:35
9. Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) +3:46
10. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +3:56
Points classification: Daniel Moreno (Katusha)
Mountains classification: Christopher Horner (RadioShack-Leopard)
Combination classification: Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff)
Team classification: Astana
Link: Official website