Gavazzi secures Vuelta stage
Cobo maintains race lead
Last Updated: September 9, 2011 10:14pm
Gavazzi: Rode a clever race to take a much-need victory for his Lampre squad
Francesco Gavazzi sprinted to victory on stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana after attacking his breakaway counterparts on the coast.
The Lampre rider bided his time as an 11-rider group rode into Noja and followed in the wheel of Kristoff Vandewalle (Quick Step) as the duo broke clear ahead of the final kilometre.
Forcing the Belgian to lead out the sprint Gavazzi powered past his rival on the uphill drag to the line to land the first victory of the race for his Lampre squad.
Alexandre Geniez (Skil-Shimano) came home third on the stage as a breakaway was allowed to prosper during an undulating day in the saddle.
The escapees were forced to chase down a brave late move from Sergio Paulinho after the RadioShack man attacked on the final climb and broke clear, holding an advantage of 43 seconds at the top of the Puerto de Fuente las Varas.
The chase group reeled in the veteran Portuguese rider on the flat run to the line despite almost succumbing to in-fighting.
Race leader Juan Jose Cobo (Geox) finished towards the front of a main peloton that crossed the line seven minutes and 42 seconds back as the main favourites were neutralised by the parcours.
The Spaniard still maintains a 13-second lead over Chris Froome (Team Sky) as the race prepares for a double-header in the Basque Country.
It was no surprise to see a 17-man break move clear after 10.6km and go on to build up a healthy advantage in excess of 10 minutes ahead of a day that features five classified climbs.
With no riders in the escape presenting a risk to the overall classification the day was a relatively straightforward one for Geox who set a tempo on the front in aid of Cobo.
As the stage wore on the escape group began to fracture as the riders hit the first category Puerto de Alisas with riders slipping back into the clutches of the peloton.
Nicolas Roche (Ag2r) jumped out of the pack and, followed by Wout Poels (Vacansoleil), attempted to gain time in a move that was quickly snuffed out by Euskaltel-Euskadi.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) bounced back from a crash on Tuesday to make the day’s break and scored enough points to move back into the green points jersey he has held for the bulk of the race.
Paulinho tried to seize the initiative with an attack from range but ran out of steam during the run along the beachfront and eventually rolled in alone over a minute behind the triumphant Gavazzi.
The bunch rolled in minutes later and despite a late bid for freedom from sixth-placed Maxime Monfort (Leopard Trek) the day saw no movement on the general classification.