Thursday/09 September 2010
It is funny to think about just how tough it has been for Mark Cavendish to win his first career Vuelta stage this year. After taking the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France by storm the past few years, the wins were supposed to flow like wine for him as the peloton traversed Spanish soil. But after watching Alessandro Petacchi and Tyler Farrar (and even Yauheni Hutarovich!) upstage him in the first half of the three-week tour, I was starting to wonder if the Manx Missile had overextended himself in coming to Spain.
Cavendish finally cracked the Vuelta curse, winning with enough time to zip up his jersey and celebrate like Usain Bolt to the finish line...
Of course, we’ve been in this very position before. In this year’s Tour, for instance, two straight Petacchi victories on Stages 2 and 3 coupled with zero Cavendish wins in the first week had everyone questioning his form. Of course, by the end of the race he had won four stages and broken the record for most career sprint victories in the event’s hundred-year history. Far from being discouraging, the near-misses seem to light a brighter fire under his saddle.
He has held the points leader’s jersey for large swaths of the race so far, riding consistently yet still lacking that decisive victory which was Cavendish’s real goal in coming to this year’s Vuelta. That finish-line glory had eluded him over the first week and a half of racing, leading to many of those questions from the Tour being rehashed two months later. But today everything conspired for Columbia to launch their young sprinting sensation to the line and allow him to break his streak of futility.
The stage started where it ended yesterday, in the Pyrenean principality of Andorra. The peloton — down another rider after Milram’s Roy Sentjens was sent home after test results discovered EPO in his system last night and he was suspended by his team — set out on a breezy afternoon and headed back down in elevation toward Catalonia. Gustavo Rodríguez and David García, two Xacobeo-Galicia riders, set the day’s early breakaway into motion soon after the neutral zone had passed. They were quickly joined by a half dozen others — Lars Bak (HTC-Columbia), Antonio Piedra (Andalucia-CajaSur), Markus Eichler (Milram), Biel Kadri (Ag2r), Perrig Quemeneur (BBox) and Marco Marzano (Lampre).
They would gain a maximum advantage of five minutes on the route, but a combination of nasty headwinds and the hard-charging field behind ultimately doomed the lead group’s chances of staying clear all the way to Lleida. Garmin and Quick Step led the chase, massing its riders at the front and reducing the gap steadily with each passing kilometer. The breakaway continued its futile fight valiantly if in vain, the winds and disparity in numbers dooming them to an eventual catch. With 23 km left in the stage, the breakaway succumbed to the pressures and was reintegrated into the pack.
As the remnants of the breakaway settled back into the main field, the Garmin squad led the peloton into Lleida hoping to set Tyler Farrar up for the stage win. But it was Columbia, setting up a textbook-perfect lead-out train for Cavendish, that got the well-timed jump in the final kilometer. Matthew Goss, last in line driving Cavendish to the line, pulled so hard and opened up such a gap that the British speedster was able to coast over the line for his inaugural Vuelta victory.
It was such a dominant finish, in fact, that it seemed destined to finish 1-2 for Columbia. But in the final few hundred meters, Farrar was able to recover from Garmin’s poor setup and surge in past Goss to take second. Still the lead-out man easily managed to take third on the day, presaging the inevitable showdown which is sure to come once again tomorrow. After a few days in the mountains, the sprinters’ time to shine has returned again — and now that he has a taste of Spanish success, who really wants to bet against Cavendish moving forward?
STAGE 12 RESULTS
|1||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC-Columbia||4:00:30|
|2||Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions|
|3||Matthew Goss (Aus) Team HTC-Columbia|
|4||Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Team Katusha|
|5||Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervélo Test Team|
|6||Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank|
|7||Allan Davis (Aus) Astana|
|8||Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step|
|9||Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) FDJ|
|10||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto|
|1||Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||51:37:45|
|2||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo||0:00:45|
|3||Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo Test Team||0:01:04|
|4||Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha||0:01:17|
|5||Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia||0:01:29|
|6||Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Caisse d’Epargne||0:01:57|
|7||Ruben Plaza (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne||0:02:07|
|8||Rigoberto Uran (Col) Caisse d’Epargne||0:02:13|
|9||Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2R-La Mondiale||0:02:30|
|10||Frank Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank|
|1||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC-Columbia||85||pts|
|2||Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions||76|
|3||Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||75|
|4||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||67|
|5||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo||54|
|6||David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, le crédit en ligne||53|
|7||Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha||48|
|8||Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Team Katusha||39|
|9(t)||Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervélo Test Team||37|
|9(t)||Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia||37|
|9(t)||Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo||37|
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
|1||David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, le crédit en ligne||41||pts|
|2||Serafin Martinez (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia||36|
|3||Gonzalo Rabunal (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia||25|
|4||Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||15|
|5||Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo Test Team||11|
|6||Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) FDJ||10|
|7||Oscar Pujol (Spa) Cervélo Test Team||10|
|8||Johann Tschopp (Swi) BBOX Bouygues Telecom||10|
|9||Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia||10|
|10||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step||8|
|3||Euskaltel – Euskadi||0:08:49|
|4||Cervelo Test Team||0:10:46|
|6||AG2R La Mondiale||0:13:51|