Post Stage Analysis
Greipel Makes it Two
André Greipel of Columbia-HTC celebrated his second stage victory of this year's Vuelta a España today in Vinaròs. Greipel out-sprinted Tom Boonen of Quick Step and Daniele Bennati of Liquigas-Doimo on the slightly uphill run-in to the line. Greipel also took over the lead in the general classification and holds a 6 second advantage over Boonen. A crash in the final corner involving Gerald Ciolek of Team Milram among others split the field and reshuffled the general classification, though the time gaps remain small with the hard mountains yet to come.
The Vuelta returned to Spain today after its excursions in Northern Europe and left the rain behind. Hot sun beat down over the bunch as they raced through the dry terrain between Tarragona to Vinaròs. Six riders formed the early break and the sprinters' teams proved content to let them ride. Aitor Hernandez Gutierrez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, José Antonio López Gil of Andalucia-Cajasur, Julien El Fares of Cofidis, Julian Sanchez Pimiento of Contentpolis-Ampo, Matheus Pronk Vacansoleil, and Serafin Martinez of Xacobeo-Galicia built up a maximum advantage of six minutes, but with 60 kilometers to go, they rode only 2:00 ahead of the main field. Christian Meier of Garmin-Slipstream did a lengthy turn on the front for the team's sprinter Tyler Farrar. Quick Step, Columbia-HTC, and Liquigas-Doimo also contributed to the chase and steadily chipped away at the advantage of the breakaway.
Inside 25 kilometers to go, the gap had fallen to 1:30, and soon only Lopez Gil remained out in front. The solo effort of the Vacansoleil rider did not last long, and with 20 kilometers to race, it was all back together. Rabobank began to push the pace on the front in an effort to keep the field strung out. The Dutch team hoped to keep their general classification hope Robert Gesink out of trouble and perhaps set up Spanish sprinter Oscar Freire for the stage victory.
On the run-in to the final climb of the day, the Alto de La Ermita, the teams began to jostle a bit at the front of the main field as the sprinters moved up to avoid losing contact. As the bunch hit the climb, Philippe Gilbert of Silence-Lotto put in a big attack and by the summit, built up an advantage of 22 seconds. The Belgian classics rider has a knack for solo victories, and for a time, it looked like he might add another win to his collection. But as the main field began the descent, Gilbert's advantage melted away, and it became clear that a sprint would end the stage.
Quick Step, Liquigas-Doimo, and Garmin-Slipstream moved to the front and increased the pace. Into the finale, the roads twisted and turned. A sharp right-hand bend with around 800 meters caused a crash which split the field and took out Gerald Ciolek of Team Milram. A small group of around ten riders made it through to contest the sprint. Liquigas-Doimo hit the front early for Bennati, but the Italian could not hold the lead to the line. André Greipel of Columbia-HTC timed the tricky uphill sprint to perfection and won his second stage of this Vuelta a España and his third ever grand tour stage. Tom Boonen of Quick Step, who looks to be on building form, finished second. Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream and William Bonnet of Bbox Bouygues Télécom rounded out the top five in Vinaròs.
With the time bonus from his stage win today, André Greipel takes over the race lead and will wear the Golden Jersey tomorrow. Tom Boonen sits second at 6 seconds and Daniele Bennati is third at 17. Greipel also leads the points competition by 20 points ahead of Boonen. After his long day out in the break, Aitor Fernandez Gutierrez of Euskaltel-Euskadi took over the lead in the mountains classification today, while Serfin Martinez of Xacobeo-Galicia now wears the white jersey for the combination classification.
Here is the current general classification:
Tomorrow's stage starts and finishes in Xàtiva and runs over hilly terrain. On paper, it looks to be a nice stage for a breakaway to survive, but with so many sprinters close to the Golden Jersey, the sprinters' teams may choose to ride again tomorrow. The stage win carries a 20 second time bonus. For more details on tomorrow's stage, please turn the page.
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Stage 5: Tarragona - Vinaròs
Terrain Type: Breakaway country with early climb followed by rolling terrain.
The Vuelta returns home to Spain after its foreign adventures in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. This first Spanish stage of the Vuelta a España runs along the Meditarranean coast between Tarragona and Vinaròs. The course loops into the coastal mountains and the riders will climb the category 2 Coll de Fatxas early in the stage. The majority of the stage crosses flat and rolling terrain, and the stage descends to the finish at Vinaròs. The profile looks perfect for a breakaway to succeed as the rolling terrain and early climb will likely rule out the sprinters.
Tarragona sits on the Meditarranean coast just south of Barcelona, which hosted a Tour de France finish earlier this summer. Roman ruins dot the city, which held a position of wealth and prominence during the time of Augustus and was known for its vineyards and warm weather. The stage heads inland into the hills before returning to the coast for the finish in Vinaròs. Until the early 20th century, Vinaròs had extensive vineyard lands, but Phylloxera put an end to wine-growing in the area. With its white sand beaches and calm waters, Vinaròs is a favorite among tourists. It also hosts a large commercial fishing fleet and is known for its fresh prawns.
The stage sets off from Tarragona and rolls southwest down the coast, passing through Vilaseca and Cambrils. After about 15 kilometers, the course turns northwest and heads inland from the coast toward Masboquera. Just outside Masboquera, the riders will encounter the first climb of the day, which starts at kilometer 41. A category 2, the Coll de Fatxas gains 275 meters over 7 kilometers. This first climb should allow a breakaway to go up the road. The Coll de Faxtas summits at kilometer 49, and there remains 125 kilometers to race.
The course drops quickly from the Coll de Fatxas as the stage continues its southwestern progress. Passing through Ginestar and Benifallet, the course covers rolling terrain until it reaches Tivenys at kilometer 93. Following Tivenys, the road turns completely flat for 15 kilometers as it passes through Tortosa.
At around kilometer 110, the stage re-enters rolling terrain. Over the next ten kilometers, the road rises 320 meters in an uncategorized stretch of climbing. The race follows small roads here as it traces a u-shape arc from Tortosa inland to Mas de Barbarans, then back to the coast and the finish in Vinaròs. After passing through Mas de Barbarans, the course continues its up and down progress until it reaches La Senia.
At La Senia, the course turns toward the coast and heads east toward Vinaròs. The profile descends steadily until just inside 10 kilometers to race, where a short steep climb, the Alto de la Ermita, offers the perfect launchpad for a stage-winning attack. From the Alto de la Ermita, the course descends 8 kilometers to the flat finish in Vinaròs.
Who To Watch
The breakaway stages offer the chance for the smaller teams to grab some television time and perhaps a stage win. Bbox Bouygues Télécom are pro at this game, and they will certainly be among the teams trying to make something happen during this stage. Look for local teams Andalucia-Cajasur, Contentpolis-Ampo, and Xacobeo-Galicia also to be on the attack, though Xacobeo-Galicia has a general classification contender in Miguel Mosquera. Though they will have an eye on the general classification with Samuel Sanchez and Igor Anton, Euskaltel-Euskadi are always active in the breakaways. The Basque team may find this stage less mountainous than they would prefer.
These breakaway stages delight the bookies, because it is all but impossible to predict the winner. Look for riders like Pierrick Fédrigo of Bbox Bouygues Télécom, Leonardo Duque of Cofidis, Rinaldo Nocentini of AG2R-La Mondiale, Amets Txurruka of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Thomas Vaitkus of Astana, Sandy Casar of Français des Jeux, Davide Vigano of Fuji-Servetto, Svein Tuft of Garmin-Slipstream, Kurt Asle-Arvesen of Saxo Bank, or Christian Knees of Milram to animate the break. All of these riders are members of the early breakaway frequent flyers club.
When it comes to the breakaway stages, you buy your ticket and you take your chance. A rider needs a combination of good legs and a little luck to win a stage like this one. ¡Que tengas suerte!— Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->