Albasini prevails in Spain

Wiggins holds on to slender lead

Last Updated: 04/09/11 12:45pm

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Albasini: Put his fast finish to good use to take a fine stage victory at the Vuelta

Albasini: Put his fast finish to good use to take a fine stage victory at the Vuelta

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Michael Albasini sprinted to victory on stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana after a breakaway was allowed to contest the stage win.

The Swiss HTC-Highroad rider kicked early on the finishing straight and held off the attentions of Eros Capecchi (Liquigas) and Daniel Moreno (Katusha) to take an impressive victory in Ponferrada.

The win was decided from a bunch sprint as a group of 20 riders contested the finish after a brutal day of racing that saw attacks from the opening kilometres.

Bradley Wiggins finished to the fore in the depleted peloton, one minute and 33 seconds back after 4600 metres of climbing across the stage, holding on to the red leader’s jersey in the process.

Five categorised climbs saw the Brit and his Team Sky squad tested to the limit as attacks from rival riders began as soon as the racing got under way in Sarria.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) scooped an early six-second time bonus at the first intermediate sprint of the day and, despite seemingly being docked 20 seconds in the provisional results, moved up to second overall four seconds back on Wiggins. Chris Froome finished in the same group as the favourites and now sits third for Team Sky.

Frantic start

There was a lot of tension ahead of a stage that was always likely to be crucial with a number of climbs to negotiate on the first of a tough trilogy of mountain stages.

It did not take long for the fireworks to begin following the opening third category Alto O’ Pico da Pena where, with a sprint point at the foot of the descent, it was no surprise to see Nibali come to the fore and scoop up valuable bonus seconds.

The effort caused an elite selection to form as 33 riders broke clear including Nibali and race-leader Wiggins, the first of a number of moves that characterised the opening stages.

After some scrambling in the bunch and a chase led by Astana things came back together, adding up to a frantic start all before the race had even hit the 35km mark en route to a rapid first hour.

Nicolas Roche (Ag2r) proved to be among the most determined riders on the day, finally making his way into a successful move at the third time of asking – a 28-man break which was finally allowed to stick after being driven on by Euskaltel.

David Moncoutie (Cofidis) was an ever-present on the climbs throughout the day and moved into the mountains classification jersey as a result after a long day in the breaks.

Team Sky controlled the pace on the focal point of the day, the first category Puerto de Ancares where unsurprisingly Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was one of the first big names to attack, drawing a reaction from a number of the favourites.

Daring descent

The descent that followed saw plenty of action as Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) pushed the pace on the way back down the mountain, dragging with him a dangerous group including Nibali, Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) and Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard Trek).

Team Sky’s Thomas Löfkvist, Chris Froome and Xabier Zandio set to work to drag back the move as a tense chase developed on the descent before the juncture was finally made with 44km remaining.

As the terrain flattened out it was clear the break would be allowed to stay clear, allowing the likes of Roche, Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank) and Moreno to all move towards the top 10, the latter actually sneaking into ninth after the dust had settled courtesy of some aggressive riding.

Olivier Zaugg (Leopard Trek) was the first to take a flier out of the break with 5km to as the group began to fracture under the weight of a number of attacks, only to come back together for a finish that played right into the hands of Albasini.

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