Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won the seventh stage at the Vuelta a Espana on Friday.
Stybar finished inches ahead of Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), with whom he rode over the final 10 kilometers of the 206km course from Almendralejo to Mairena de Aljarafe. Robert Wagner (Belkin) placed third.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) remains the overall leader of the race, with Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) three seconds back in second and Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) eight seconds behind in third.
“It was great to win today for Tony [Martin],” Stybar said. “We were so proud of him yesterday, we wanted to make it better. It’s a big win for me, too. To beat the world champion in a stage like this is amazing.”
Stybar was referring to Martin’s epic solo effort in stage 6, which saw him get caught right before the finish line after riding in front of the peloton since 5km into the course.
Stybar and Gilbert broke away from the peloton with 10km left and quickly opened up a gap of 10 seconds and rising. They charged toward the finish in hopes of fending off the peloton, which was slowed down by a series of roundabouts and technical turns. There were 10 roundabouts in the final 5km alone.
With 1km left, the gap was 12 seconds and falling. At the 500m mark, it looked as though the breakaway effort might fail. Stybar was leading Gilbert and he started his final sprint with 200 meters to go, the peloton right on their heels. Gilbert followed him and with 50 meters of racing remaining, he pulled around Stybar’s right as he tried to earn his first victory in the world championship jersey he won last fall.
The two crossed the finish line at the exact same moment, but Stybar was able to throw his bike just a few inches further than Gilbert and was declared the winner. Wagner and the peloton were one second behind.
Noticeably absent from the sprint finish was American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), who was felled by a mechanical issue late in the race.
“I flatted with 12km to go,” Farrar said. “I was trying to come back through the team cars, but there were already a few groups, and it was impossible to get back. It’s too bad. The form is there, I just need to pull it together. I think we’ll have a few more sprints next week.”
The race resumes Saturday with the 167km stage 8 from Jerez de la Frontera to Estepona. Alto de Peñas Blancas that ends with a Cat. 1 climb.