Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) won the longest stage of the 2010 Vuelta a España on Friday, out-speeding Garmin-Transitions’ Tyler Farrar on the streets of Toledo.
Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha) crossed third.
“It’s a very nice finish. Very technical,” said Gilbert on Spanish TV. “I got big help from my team to take position right before the climb. I decided to stay calm and put everything into the sprint.”
So, too, did race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo), who stuck with the leaders as the peloton fractured on the final climb before the finish. But rival Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) did not, and surrendered a dozen seconds to Nibali going into what will be the decisive stage in this year’s Vuelta — Saturday’s mountainous grind to Bola del Mundo.
Stage 19, a 231.2km race from Piedrahita to Toledo in central Spain, featured just one rated climb — the Category 2 Puerto de la Chia, which began just 6km into the stage and rose for 8km at an average grade of 5.5 percent.
Gilbert was among the favorites for the stage win.
“If everybody says so, it must be true,” said the Belgian. “On paper, it’s good for me. But we’ve heard there are possibilities of rain during the stage, and there’s no way I’ll take risks if it’s dangerous. The roads of Toledo are known for being slippery.”
Pozzato was another rider considering the possibilities.
“If this is a good stage for Gilbert, it’s a good stage for me too,” he said at the start. “I’m determined to have a go if there is an opportunity.”
A cool, casual start to the stage
The peloton was down to 158 riders following the withdrawal of Nicolas Vogondy (BBox Bouygues Telecom), and it was cool as they rolled out, with temperatures around 16 degrees Celsius (60.8 Fahrenheit).
The break du jour took a while to get rolling, but after summiting the Puerto de la Chia Dominik Roels (Milram) and Josep Jufre (Astana) moved ahead of the bunch. Xavier Florencio (Cervélo TestTeam) and Manuel Ortega (Andalucia Cajasur) followed, and the foursome had a three-minute advantage 30km into the stage.
The men in the break
- Josep Jufré (Astana), 26th at 30:34
- Xavier Florencio (Cervélo TestTeam), 98th at 2:18:49
- Dominik Roels (Milram), 116th at 2:51:42
- Manuel Ortega (Andalucia Cajasur), 119th at 2:53:24
The peloton was in no hurry to retrieve the escapees — the bunch covered a scant 29km in the first hour of “racing,” and by 83km the break’s advantage was at 10 minutes and rising.
The peloton finally began tugging on the leash around the 105km mark. Liquigas-Doimo was leaving the chase to other teams — Footon-Servetto, Quick Step and Omega Pharma, among them — and by 135km they had brought the escapees to within seven minutes.
Fifty kilometers from the line the gap was just over five minutes and HTC-Columbia had contributed Lars Ytting Bak to the chase. Twenty-five kilometers later the break was just 1:20 up the road. Ten kilometers further along and Saxo Bank was setting the pace.
And with 13km to go, the catch finally came — gruppo compatto.
The final kilometers
There was one short, steep, unrated climb between the bunch and the line, and Lampre’s Danilo Hondo was drilling it at the front, perhaps hoping to launch Grega Bole up the hill. But Omega Pharma was moving forward, too, as was Lampre.
Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) tried a dig on the climb, but got nowhere. Then his teammate Dario Cataldo had a go, followed by Luis Leon Sanchez, and the two got a gap.
Sanchez dropped Cataldo only to be joined by Peter Velits (HTC-Columbia) with 2.5km to go. But the two didn’t have much of an advantage and with 1.5km to race they were pulled back as the bunch raced onto the cobbles of Toledo, led by Garmin-Transitions.
Farrar was in second position as Gilbert took the front, pushing a huge gear — and he couldn’t come around at the line. The Belgian took the stage, but Farrar scored 20 points in the green-jersey competition, closing to with 12 points of rival Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia), who finished out of the points in 17th place.
- 1. Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 5:43:41
- 2. Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Transitions, same time
- 3. Filippo Pozzato, Team Katusha, s.t.
- 4. Sébastien Hinault, Ag2r La Mondiale, s.t.
- 5. Peter Velits, HTC-Columbia, s.t.
- 1. Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas-Doimo, 80:30:48
- 2. Ezequiel Mosquera, Xacobeo Galicia, at 0:50
- 3. Peter Velits, HTC-Columbia, at 1:59
- 4. Joaquin Rodriguez, Team Katusha, at 3:54
- 5. Frank Schleck, Team Saxo Bank, at 3:57