Gilbert doubles up at Vuelta
Contador retains lead heading into final test
Last Updated: 08/09/12 5:47pm
Philippe Gilbert: Timed his kick perfectly to claim his second Vuelta stage
Philippe Gilbert motored to his second victory of the race in a dramatic finale to stage 19 at the Vuelta a Espana.
The Belgian (BMC Racing) showed a glimpse of the form that made him so unstoppable in 2011 on the drag up to the line in La Lastrilla, riding away from his rivals inside the final kilometre before holding on at the line.
Britain's Ben Swift (Team Sky) recognised the dangerous move but was unable to cling onto the wheel of Gilbert on the leg-burning finish, eventually holding on for seventh.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) chipped away at his deficit to the race leader Alberto Contador on the day, second place handing him some all-important bonifications at the finish while Daniel Moreno (Katusha) rounded out the podium spots.
Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) placed tenth to maintain his strong one minute and 35-second advantage at the top of the leaderboard heading into the final test of the race - Saturday's mountain-top finish on the Bola del Mundo.
The penultimate stage was clearly at the forefront of the riders' mind as the 178.4-kilometre test saw everyone opt to wait for the hilly finale.
Two riders went away unchallenged inside the opening kilometre as the race headed out of Penafiel, Spanish pairing Aitor Galdos (Caja Rural) and Jose Vicente Toribio (Andalucia) combining to spring clear to the tune of 10:17 before Argos-Shimano took to the front.
More teams were willing to join in with the chase over the exposed and - for the first time in the race - wet roads as the lead pairing gradually began to tire.
A slower average speed than in previous days meant the stage dragged on, with only a few brief attacks punctuating the action ahead of the inevitable catch with 28km to go.
Team Sky were among the teams which arrived on the front shortly after but it was Movistar who pushed the hardest, seizing the initiative on the run-in and stringing out the peloton which split under the strain.
After the peloton had passed the famous aqueduct a strong move launched clear with 2km to go, Matti Breschel (Rabobank), John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) and Nicolas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale) joined by Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha.
With no one willing to tow Degenkolb to the line things came back together and it was Gilbert who kicked the hardest to further stake his claim for the upcoming world championships.