Post Stage Analysis

Božič Takes First Sprint Victory in Xàtiva
Vacansoleil rider wins stage, Greipel still in Gold

9 Big Photos from Stage 6sirotti

Borut Božič of Vacansoleil won today's sprint stage of the Vuelta a España. The Slovene out-sprinted Tyler Farrar and Daniele Bennati to take his first ever stage victory. Božič also took over the lead in the points classification. André Greipel lost the plot in the final kilometer and finished tenth on the stage. All the same, the Columbia-HTC sprinter continues to lead the general classification ahead of Tom Boonen of Quick Step. Greipel's days in Gold will likely end with tomorrow's flat time trial in Valencia. Crono ace Fabian Cancellara sits fifth at only 18 seconds down on Greipel.

Constant attacking animated the early kilometers of the stage, but Columbia-HTC kept tight control over the proceedings. A four rider break soon escaped and included: José Antonio López Gil of Andalucia-Cajasur, Matheus Pronk of Vacansoleil, Aitor Pérez Arrieta of Contentpolis-Ampo, and Bingen Fernandez Bustinza of Cofidis. Over the first two categorized climbs of the day, Pronk dropped off the back of the break, but managed to chase back on to the group on the descents. López Gil, meanwhile, took the maximum points over the Alto de Milares and the Alto de la Muela. The Andalucia-Cajasur rider now leads the mountains classification and will wear the red jersey tomorrow.

The bunch rolled along at a relatively leisurely pace for much of the day, slowed by the Spanish heat and thoughts of tomorrow's time trial. The four rider break built up a maximum advantage of six minutes before the sprinters' teams began to organize on the front and set to the work of chasing. Columbia-HTC, as the team of the race leader, did much of the work of chasing today with Vicente Reyes and František Rabon doing the pace-setting. With 30 kilometers to race, the gap had fallen to 1:30.

The course today followed a bumpy course to the finish with a categorized climb at 25 kilometers to go, and two uncategorized climbs in the final 10 kilometers. As they hit the lower slopes of the Alto de Benigámin, Pronk and Pérez Arrieta dropped off the break, but López Gil and Fernandez continued. As the gap between the break and the main field narrowed on the climb, Paolo Tiralongo of Lampre-Ngc made a bid for freedom from the main field. The Italian climber quickly bridged up to López Gil and Fernandez, but the bunch remained close behind. With 21 kilometers to race, López Gil, Fernandez, and Tiralongo held a 18 second advantage, but five kilometers later, it was all back together.

Columbia-HTC now rode hard on the front in the hope of setting up Greipel for yet another stage win. With just over 10 kilometers to go, the group hit a small climb. World Champion Alessandro Ballan of Lampre-Ngc and Matti Breschel of Saxo Bank attacked and soon gained a small gap over the Columbia-HTC driven field. Linus Gerdemann of Team Milram tried to bridge to the two leaders, but couldn't go the distance. Over the top of the climb, Ballan and Breschel held a slim advantage of 16 seconds, but as the main field began the descent the gap fell quickly.

With 7 kilometers to race, Ballan and Breschel remained out in front by just 10 seconds. David de la Fuente of Fuji-Servetto bridged across. Philippe Gilbert of Silence-Lotto decided he liked the looks of this move and with 6 kilometers to race, Gilbert set out to catch the leaders. Ballan, Breschel, and De La Fuente dropped back, and in a repeat of yesterday's stage, Gilbert continued up the road solo. Behind, Liquigas-Doimo moved to the front of the main field and upped the pace for their sprinter Bennati.

As the riders hit the final small climb, the main field caught Gilbert. David Moncoutié of Cofidis countered and opened a small gap as he approached the summit of the climb. On the curvy descent, Moncoutié still rode out in front, but his advantage was shrinking all the time. With 2 kilometers to race, Moncoutié's adventure had come to an end. Now, with the sprint finish inevitable, the jostling for position began at the front.

Inside the final kilometer, Garmin-Slipstream came to the front to lead-out Tyler Farrar, while Borut Božič freelanced his way into the line-up. Božič started his sprint early from the front and kept it going all the way to the line. None of the others could come around. Tyler Farrar finished second, followed by Daniele Bennati of Liquigas-Doimo, Davide Vigano of Fuji-Servetto, and Tom Boonen of Quick Step. André Greipel couldn't find his way to the front today and finished tenth. Today marked the first ever grand tour stage win for Božič from the first year Vacansoleil team.

André Greipel continues to lead the general classification, just 6 seconds ahead of Tom Boonen of Quick Step. With today's victory, Borut Božič of Vacansoleil takes over the lead in the Points Classification, while Juan Antonio López Gil of Andalucia-Cajasur now leads the King of the Mountains after riding the breakaways for the past two days. Serafín Martínez Acevedo of Xacobeo-Galicia continues to wear the White Jersey of Combination leader. The combination leader is the best placed rider in the general, mountains, and points classifications. Dominik Roels of Milram is currently second in the Combo.

Here is the current general classification:
André Greipel Columbia-HTC
Tom Boonen Quick Step :06
Daniele Bennati Liquigas-Doimo :09
Tyler Farrar Garmin-Slipstream :09
Fabian Cancellara Saxo Bank :18
Borut Božič Vacansoleil :23
Ivan Basso Liquigas-Doimo :27
Alejandro Valverde Caisse d'Épargne :27
Cadel Evans Silence-Lotto :28
David García Xaxobeo-Galicia :33

Tomorrow is time trial day. The 30 kilometer course runs through the Formula 1 course in Valencia and is completely flat. The short distance should keep the time gaps close among the general classification riders, but the stage victory will almost certainly go to a time trial specialist. For more details, please turn the page.

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Course Preview

Stage 6 Xàtiva - Xàtiva

Terrain Type: Hilly, but not mountainous.
GC Importance: An adventurous general classification rider could try to escape on the hilly circuit at the end of this stage, but it’s more likely that the “bigs” will save their legs for the high mountains.

The Vuelta heads inland for this stage which starts and finishes in Xàtiva. The course traces a U-shape and passes over hilly terrain. The stage climbs three category 3 climbs and ends with a 34 kilometer circuit around Xàtiva. The climbs should be sufficient to rule out the sprinters and open the way for a breakaway to survive to the finish. The final category 3 climb summits 25 kilometers from the finish, and two short steep climbs interrupt the tranquility inside the final ten kilometers. This stage finish favors the attacking riders and we should see a small group or solo rider fight it out at the line.

Xàtiva sits just south of Valencia and slightly inland from the Mediterranean coast. In Roman times, the city warranted a mention by Ovid because of its fame in producing silk fabrics. During the 12th century, Xàtiva became a center for paper production in Europe when Northern Africans brought the Middle Eastern technology — and their armies — to the Iberian Peninsula. The modern city with its tree-lined streets sits on the right bank of the Albaida river and south of Monte Benisà. The Castillo de Xàtiva sits atop the Monte Benisà and stands guard over the city. The stage both begins and ends in this southern city.

Profile Details

The stage runs flat for the first 30 kilometers. The course departs Xàtiva and heads northeast, passing through Carcaixent and Alzira. At Alzira, the road bends west toward L’Alcudia. The terrain remains flat here, but around kilometer 40, the road begins to rise to the base of the first category 3 climb of the day, the Alto de Muela. The Alto de Muela climbs for 9 kilometers and gains 360 meters. Back of the envelope calculations put the average gradient at 4%. A short descent midway to the summit suggests that the actual gradients may be steeper. From the summit of the Alto de Muela, there remains 111 kilometers to race. This first climb should send a breakaway up the road, though they may not survive to the finish of this hilly stage.

From the summit of the Alto de Muela, the course descends quickly and passes though Dos Aguas. The course is now running along the outskirts of the Riserva Muele de Cortes, and it reaches its northernmost point in Dos Aguas. From there, the course turns and runs south. The climbing begins again almost immediately after the race leaves Dos Aguas, and there is an intermediate sprint in Milares at kilometer 78.7. In Spain, even the intermediate sprints are uphill.

The second climb of the day, the Alto de Milares begins shortly after the intermediate sprint. A category 3 climb, the Alto de Milares ascends 4.5 kilometers at an average gradient of 5%, which is just enough to sting the legs, but shouldn’t cause the race favorites too much trouble. After reaching the summit of the Alto de Milares, the course follows a plateau for approximately 10 kilometers. The terrain is bumpy here, and the road rarely lies flat during the remaining kilometers of this stage.

Just past kilometer 100, the course begins a long gradual descent. The stage passes through Nevarrès, before reaching a second intermediate sprint in Xàtiva at kilometer 143.7. Following the intermediate sprint, the riders enter the 24 kilometer circuit that concludes the stage.

The finishing circuit begins with the third and final category 3 climb of the day. The Alto de Benigànim climbs 4.5 kilometers and gains 205 meters. The average gradient is around 5% for this one, and it offers a nice launch-pad for a stage-winning attack. The summit of the Alto de Benigànim lies 24 kilometers from the finish, though, so while it might force a selection, it may not prove decisive.

The final 20 kilometers of this stage follow a bumpy path to the finish in Xàtiva. After descending the Alto de Benigànim, the riders face two uncategorized climbs before the finish. The final two climbs come inside the last 10 kilometers of the stage and should make for animated racing. From the final climb, which summits with around 5 kilometers to go, the road descends to the finish. The final kilometer is flat and only a small group should survive to contest the finish.

Who to Watch

Watch for the local teams like Xacobeo-Galicia and Fuji-Servetto to animate the breakaways today. This stage is made for attacking riders who can climb well. Pierrick Fédrigo of Bbox Bouygues Télécom could do well with a stage like this one. Likewise for a rider from Garmin-Slipstream like Ryder Hesjdahl. Certainly, Euskaltel-Euskadi will put a rider in the break today. Perhaps it’s a day for Amets Txurruka. Classics riders without general classification ambitions like Philippe Gilbert or Damiano Cunego could also have a go at this stage, especially if the bunch regroups close to the finish. With its hilly terrain, this stage is wide-open.

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