Vuelta a Espana: Zdenek Stybar beats Philippe Gilbert in photo finish on stage seven
By Matt Westby. Last Updated: 31/08/13 3:02pm
Zdenek Stybar beat Philippe Gilbert in a photo finish
Zdenek Stybar beat world champion Philippe Gilbert by a tyre's width in a thrilling finish to stage seven of the Vuelta a Espana.
Both men attacked off the front of the peloton 10km from home and, just as Tony Martin had done 24 hours earlier, they defied expectation by staying clear going into the final 500m.
Unlike Martin, though, the pair managed to hold off the sprint trains by a solitary second, with Stybar (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) edging Gilbert (BMC) in the narrowest of photo finishes.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) crossed the line safely in the main bunch to retain his three-second overall lead in the general classification, while Britain's Andrew Fenn (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) registered his best Grand Tour result by finishing sixth.
Stybar's victory continued a rich run of form that earlier this month saw him win the Eneco Tour, but Gilbert's defeat means he remains winless in his tenure as world champion and has missed his best opportunity yet to break the "curse" of the rainbow jersey.
Stybar said: "It is a really beautiful day for me. We were very motivated for the stage and after 100km I said to the sports director that if there is an attack, I am going to try. I made it and I am really happy. It is not every day you can win against a world champion."
As with the previous day, the outcome was once again a major surprise, with the 205.9km largely flat stage from Almendralejo to Mairena de Aljarafe, near Seville, having seemingly been certain to end in a bunch sprint.
Three riders - Christian Knees (Team Sky), Marco Pinotti (BMC) and Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural) - broke away and opened up a maximum gap of almost seven minutes, but when the last of them was caught just under 15km out, the sprint looked nailed on.
However, a momentary lull in pace as the peloton passed under the 10km-to-go banner facilitated attacks off off the front, and although a clutch of riders were swiftly reeled back in, Gilbert and Stybar managed to stay away.
An initial gap of 11 seconds fell to six seconds with 4km to go, but a section of narrow road and tight corners slowed the peloton once more and helped the lead grow back out to 17 seconds going into the final 2km.
With the pack bearing down quickly, Stybar launched his sprint 250m from home and looked certain to win, but then Gilbert fought back brilliantly and crossed the line only millimetres behind his rival.
Stage seven result
1 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, 4:51:27
2 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC, same time
3 Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin, st
4 Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, st
5 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM, st
6 Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
7 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky, st
8 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC, st
9 Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC, st
10 Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA) Argos-Shimano, st
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, 27:29:35
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard, +3sec
3 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Saxo-Tinkoff, +8
4 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Leopard, +16
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +21
6 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack-Leopard, +26
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Team Sky, +28
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha, +31
9 Rafal Majka (Pol)Saxo-Tinkoff, +38
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff, +42
- Green (points classification): Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE)
- Blue polka dot (mountains classification): Nicolas Roche (Ire) Saxo-Tinkoff