Vuelta diary, Stage 9: Gilbert records breakthrough victory
After not having won a stage at a Grand Tour for over a year, superstar classics rider Philippe Gilbert has finally broken through, winning Stage 9 of the Vuelta a Espana in the sporting capital of Spain, Barcelona.
It was a fantastic ride by the Italian, who was set up for a move by BMC team mate, Allesandro Ballan.
With 5km to go in the stage, and with the short Category 3 climb ending only 2km out from the finish line approaching, Ballan accelerated like no other, leaving the peloton well behind with in a matter of seconds.
Knowing the team plan, Gilbert soon followed and once he had caught up to his compatriot, Ballan dropped back to the main field knowing his work was done.
Sensing the opportunity to gain time on his rivals in the all important general classification, Joaquim Rodriguez, the red jersey leader followed Gilbert and the duo then went together to the finish line.
Gilbert was perfectly poised for the stage win with only a few hundred metres to go and delivered promptly, taking the stage win without much trouble over the Spaniard.
However Rodriguez was not disappointed, as he gained valuable time over Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and fellow countryman, Alejandro Valverde.
All importantly the Katusha rider had gained 20 seconds on both Froome and Contador, as well as 17 seconds on Alejandro Valverde. Whilst these small margins may seem insignificant, they could prove to be the difference in what is shaping up to be a very tight Vuelta a Espana.
Gilbert has reminded us of his class, after much media pressure because of what has ultimately been a failed season thus far. The 30 year old is back to his best, and to his luck the World championships is just around the corner.
If Gilbert can keep up this form he will be very hard to stop, and we could see results similar to his fantastic 2010 Vuelta a Espana where he recorded 2 stage wins, and held the red jersey for an outstanding, 5 days.
Tomorrow is a well earned rest day for the 194 riders left in the Vuelta a Espana, which is sure to freshen up many sore legs.
Stage 10 beginning on Tuesday night, is a 190km journey from Ponteareas to Sanxenxo, known by many as the ‘beach and sun’ destination of Spain. Other than an early Category 3 climb it is a flat stage, and another one for the sprinters.
Stage 9, ‘unsung hero’: Allesandro Ballan. The 32 year old rider, famous for his victory at the Road Race in the 2008 World Championships was the perfect sacrificial lamb for team mate Philippe Gilbert’s victory.
Without his blistering attack, Gilbert would have never been able to bask in the glory of victory and for that Ballan is a deserving winner of the Stage 9, unsung hero award.
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team 4:45:28
2 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team
3 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:07
4 Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team 0:00:09
5 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Radioshack-Nissan
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
7 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
8 Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 0:00:12
9 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
10 Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
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