Yesterday it was Vladimir Efimkin, today it was Cadel Evans.
Team CSC’s Carlos Sastre played executioner for the second straight day and clawed his way ahead of Evans into second place overall Friday at the Vuelta a España after a grueling, six-climb stage finishing atop the rainy and foggy Abantos summit.
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) won ahead of ahead of Dani Moreno (Relax-GAM) to score his second stage victory of this year’s Vuelta while Sastre crossed the line third just ahead of race leader Denis Menchov (Rabobank) at three seconds back.
Team CSC’s Carlos Sastre has been complaining all week that the 2007 Vuelta a España just wasn’t hard enough.
With the top GC spots jammed in a deadlock since the climbing stage to Cerler in the Pyrénées, it seemed the relatively easy second half of the Vuelta was dooming the 32-year-old Spanish climber to yet another fourth-place result in a grand tour.
Sastre – already twice fourth in the Tour de France and once fourth in the Vuelta -- was so frustrated, so fed up, that he even said he wasn’t going to attack anymore.
A second sprint victory in the Vuelta a España couldn’t erase disappointment for Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital) after being overlooked for a spot on the Italian national team for next week’s world championships.
The Liguigas-bound rider found out overnight he was left off the Stuttgart squad and smashed that frustration into his pedals Wednesday to beat the men whom he wanted to support, Paolo Bettini, and compatriot Alessandro Petacchi in the 175km 17th stage from Ciudad Real to Talavera de la Reina.
Colombians made a name for themselves in the 1980s and 1990s by winning when the road turned uphill.
Such stars as Lucho Herrera, Fabio Parra and the latest incarnation in the form of Mauricio Soler put Colombia on the international cycling map thanks to their bird-like builds and innate ability to soar like condors up Europe’s steepest roads.
Santiago Botero broke the mold with his consistency in the race against the clock, but Colombians and summit finishes were synonymous in the peloton.
When the road drops downhill, there’s no one faster than Samuel Sánchez.
Perhaps Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) didn’t know what was in store when Sánchez disappeared off the Cat. 1 Alto de Monachil summit some 20km from the finish line in Granada. But Manuel “Triki” Beltrán (Liquigas) sure did.
Just when it looked like the Vuelta a España was stuck on the repeat button, all hell broke loose in Friday´s 176km 13th stage.
Take away the wild battles in the Pyrenees, and it seemed the Vuelta had stolen the script from the movie “Groundhog Day.” Day after day, the same plot unfolded: an early break, lots of TV for Spain´s second-division no-hopers, the peloton on siesta, the sprint teams revving up the chase, the breakaway caught with 8km to go, a sprinter sweeping across the line in the fight to see who gets kisses from the podium girls.
If there was any doubt that Alessandro Petacchi was back at his best, he erased them with an emphatic finishing surge Thursday to claim his second straight sprint victory at the Vuelta a España.
On a day when another breakaway attempt fell short, Milram did the heavy lifting to reel in the attackers to put Ale-Jet in position to win the 173km 12th stage from Algemesí to Hellín.
Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) made yet another comeback after sprinting to victory in Wednesday’s otherwise routine 11th stage at the Vuelta a España.
It was his first major victory since the Italian ace tested non-negative for Salbutamol at the Giro d’Italia and his career teetered on the edge of disaster.
The Italian cycling federation eventually cleared Petacchi of what could have been a two-year racing ban, but the proud Petacchi was forced to sit on the sidelines during the Tour de France.
How much is Denis Menchov dominating the 2007 Vuelta a España?
If the amount of lipstick on his cheeks from receiving kisses from the podium girls is any indication, a lot.
The 29-year-old Rabobank captain won the longest and hardest stage of this year’s Vuelta on a sunny and windy Monday high in Andorra to carry a solid lead of more than two minutes to compatriot Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d’Epargne) into Tuesday’s rest day.
Just add up the quality podium time Menchov enjoyed: stage winner, race leader, mountain jersey and the combined jersey. That’s a lot of kisses.