Post Stage Analysis

Gerrans Unbeatable
Breakaway win for Gerrans in Murcia, Valverde remains in Gold

9 Big Photos from Stage 10sirotti

Simon Gerrans of Cervélo TestTeam won a four-up sprint in today's Vuelta a España stage finishing in Murcia. The Australian out-sprinted Ryder Hesjdahl of Garmin-Slipstream and Jakob Fuglsang of Saxo Bank for the stage victory. Gerrans now has stage wins in all three grand tours to his credit. The general classification riders finished together in Murcia, and there are no changes in the overall classification. Local boy Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d'Epargne still leads Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto and Robert Gesink of Rabobank.

A sizeable break rolled clear early in today's stage between Alicante and Murcia. The course followed rolling, breakaway-friendly terrain with a category 2 climb inside the final 10 kilometers to lure the attackers. The sprinters teams opted not to ride today, and the 20 rider break soon built up a sufficient advantage to survive to the finish. Local team Contentpolis-Ampo proved especially determined today, and put three riders in the break. The super-sized escape included: Christophe Riblon of AG2R-La Mondiale, Antonio Piedra Pérez of Andalucia-Cajasur, Alexandre Vinkourov of Astana, Francisco Pérez Sánchez Caisse d'Epargne, Simon Gerrans of Cervélo TestTeam, Leonardo Duque of Cofidis, Adrián Palomares Villaplana, Julián Sánchez Pimienta, and Aitor Pérez Arrieta of Contentpolis-Ampo, Arnaud Gerard of Français des Jeux, David De La Fuente and Beñat Inxausti Elorriaga of Fuji-Servetto, Ryder Hesjdahl of Garmin-Slipstream, Matteo Tosatto of Quick Step, Juan Manuel Garate of Rabobank, Adam Hansen of Columbia-HTC, Linus Gerdemann of Team Milram, Jakob Fuglsang and Karsten Kroon of Saxo Bank, and Ruben Pérez of Euskaltel-Euskadi.

With 25 kilometers to race, the break rode together 6:30 ahead of the main field. The Caisse d'Epargne team of race leader Alejandro Valverde set a steady pace on the front and appeared to be in no real hurry to reach the finish. Vacansoleil, who missed the break today, also contributed to the chase, though it was clear that the stage winner would come from the group up the road. With 20 kilometers to go, the break remained together. Plainly, they awaited the final climb of the day, the Alto de Cresto de la Gallo.

As the break approached the climb, Linus Gerdemann of Milram attacked out of the break. The German missed all of last season after a serious crash at Tirreno-Adriatico and has since struggled to return to his best form. Aitor Pérez Arrieta of Contentpolis soon joined Gerdemann and with just under 20 kilometers to race the two held a small gap over the other breakaway riders. The main field, meanwhile, lagged more than 5:00 behind.

On the Alto de Cresto de la Gallo, Gerdemann dropped his breakaway partner Pérez Arrieta and went up the road alone. With 14 kilometers to go, Gerdemann had 37 seconds over the chase group, where Jakob Fuglsang of Saxo Bank pushed the pace. Alexandre Vinokourov soon decided that the chase wasn't making enough progress and attacked out of the chase group. Now Vinokourov dangled between Gerdemann and the chase group, which still rode just over 30 seconds behind the German.

Not content to follow wheels, Beñat Intxausti of Fuji-Servetto attacked out of the chase group. Intxausti soon overtook Vinokourov and gained steadily on Gerdemann. Behind, a chase group formed which included Simon Gerrans of Cervélo TestTeam, Jakob Fuglsang of Saxo Bank, Ryder Hesjdahl of Garmin-Slipstream. Accepting that he was not going to catch the lead rider, Vinokourov dropped back to the chase, while up ahead, Intxausti caught Gerdemann. As they went over the summit of the Alto de Cresta de la Gallo, Gerdemann and Intxausti held an advantage of about 30 seconds over the four rider chase of Gerrans, Fuglsang, Hesjdahl, and Vinokourov. Behind, the main field began the climb with Liquigas-Doimo working on the front in defense of Ivan Basso's general classification position.

On the descent, disaster struck for both lead riders. First came a flat tire for Intxausti. With the team cars far behind, Intxausti had no choice but to wait roadside, his hopes of a stage victory gone. Gerdemann continued on alone, but less than a kilometer later, he too was forced to stop. The German had suffered a flat front tire, and could not continue. Sitting on his top tube by the side of the road, Gerdemann could only watch as the four rider chase group swept by him.

Inside 5 kilometers to race, Gerrans, Fuglsang, Vinokourov, and Hesjdahl rode together for the stage win. The first attack came from Vinokourov, but Gerrans proved quick to shut him down. Next came a move from Fuglsang, and again from Vinokourov, then it was all back together. The four remained locked together. Just outside the 1 kilometer to go banner, Ryder Hesjdahl made a hard effort to escape and avoid a sprint finish. He held a small gap, but soon the group came together again, a sprint inevitable. Hesjdahl tried desperately to force the others to come around without much success. With the finish in sight, Vinokourov opened the sprint. Gerrans jumped next and despite his best efforts, Hesjdahl could not come around. Simon Gerrans took the stage win ahead of Ryder Hesjdahl and Jakob Fuglsang. Vinokourov rolled in fourth. Gerdemann, who crashed on the descent after receiving a wheel from the neutral service car, finished more than 8 minutes behind the stage winner.

The final climb took its toll on the main field and a group of about 25 riders finished together behind the break. The main general classification favorites including Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans, Robert Gesink, Tom Danielson, Ivan Basso, and Samuel Sánchez finished together. Only Juan José Cobo dropped out of the top ten today. Otherwise the general classification remains unchanged. Alejandro Valverde leads Cadel Evans by 7 seconds and Robert Gesink by 36 seconds. Tom Danielson is fourth at 51 seconds, Ivan Basso is fifth at 53 seconds. Evans continues to wear the White Jersey of Combination leader. The Red Jersey of mountains leader passed from David Moncoutié to David De La Fuente of Fuji-Servetto, after De La Fuente rode the break today. André Greipel of Columbia-HTC, meanwhile, still leads the points ahead of Tom Boonen of Quick Step.

Here is the current general classification:
Alejandro Valverde Caisse d'Epargne
Cadel Evans Silence-Lotto :07
Robert Gesink Rabobank :36
Thomas Danielson Garmin-Slipstream :51
Ivan Basso Liquigas-Doimo :53
Samuel Sánchez Euskaltel-Euskadi 1:03
Damiano Cunego Lampre-Ngc 2:04
Ezequiel Mosquera Xacobeo-Galicia 2:24
Haimar Zubeldia Astana 3:01
Tadej Valjavec AG2R-La Mondiale 3:13

Tomorrow, the Vuelta races from Murcia to Caravaca de la Cruz. The stage includes two categorized climbs and should favor the breakaways, though there is a long descent to the finish. For more details on tomorrow's stage, please turn the page.

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Course Preview

Stage 10 Alicante - Murcia

Terrain Type: Rolling. Mostly flat, with a chance of hills.
GC Importance: Not today.

The Vuelta leaves the mountains for a day and returns to the flats for this sprinter-friendly stage between Alicante and Murcia. The Vuelta also abandons for a time it’s circuitous ways and this stage follows a relatively straightforward southwestern course between the two cities. The course heads inland from the coast and traces a sweeping arc through the rolling terrain around the Sierra de Crevillente. Though the profile is far from flat, this could still favor the sprinters as the final 80 kilometers race over flat or descending roads. A climb in the final 11 kilometers offers a chance for an attacking rider, but the course descends to a flat finish in plenty of time for the sprinters’ teams to take matters in hand. The stage finishes in Murcia on the Avenida Miguel Indurain.

Over 7000 years ago, the first hunting and gathering tribes moved into the area of Alicante and by 1000 BCE, the Phoenicians had begun to visit the Mediterranean coast of Spain bringing with them iron, the pottery wheel, and a written alphabet. Alicante received its name in 8 CE, when the Moors replaced the Romans as rulers of the Iberian Peninsula. Alicante is a transliteration of the Arabic for “city of lights.” Present day Alicante is a tourist magnet with lengthy stretches of white sand beaches and warm weather. The Castillo de Santa Bárbara sits high above the city on sandstone cliffs of the Monte Benacantil.

Murcia sits inland from the coast in the flood plain of the Segura river. Low mountain ranges surround the city and the Cordillera Sur divides Murcia from the Mediterranean coast. As it often the case with cities in the inland plains, extreme summer heat is common to Murcia. The flow of ancient rivers through Murcia left behind fertile soil and the city is surrounded by thriving agriculture. This year marks the 25th visit of the Vuelta to Murcia since Salvador Cardona won a stage there in 1935. The most recent stage finish in Murcia came in 2002, and Mario Cipollini celebrated victory.

Profile Details

The stage heads inland from Alicante and passes over rolling terrain. The course tracks northwest and passes through Monfort del Cid, Aspe, and Novelda. From Aspe, the road stair-steps steadily upward gaining 250 meters over the next 25 kilometers. Gradual as it is, the climbing should not cause anyone much difficulty. The first intermediate sprint comes in Sax at kilometer 56.

After the sprint in Sax, the road continues to bump along southwest toward El Pinoso over uneven terrain. At El Pinoso, the riders turn south and begin a long gradual descent toward Fortuna. The course dodges the Sierra de la Pila passing just to the east of the small mountain range. There is a second intermediate sprint in Fortuna at kilometer 118.9. From Fortuna there remains 50 kilometers to race.

The course continues to descend as it heads south toward Murcia. At kilometer 148, the Vuelta reaches the outskirts of Murcia, and with less than 20 kilometers to go, the sprinters’ teams will be working hard on the front of the field, spelling doom for any would-be breakaways.

A short, steep climb with just over 16 kilometers to race might slow the momentum of the chase and offer an opportunity for a race-winning attack. Rated a category 2, the Alto de la Cresta del Gallo climbs for 4.6 kilometers and reaches a maximum elevation of 370 meters. The climb has an average gradient of 6.5% and may prove difficult enough at this stage of the race to create a selection. The twisty descent will also help the cause of the escapers. Still, there remains plenty of road for the sprinters’ teams pull the race back together. From the summit of the Alto de la Cresta del Gallo, there remains 11.6 kilometers to go.

It’s a fast twisty descent off the Alto de la Cresta del Gallo, then a flat run-in to the finish. The stage finishes on the Avenida Miguel Indurain in northeastern Murcia. Two curves inside the final kilometers will keep the sprinters’ on their toes, assuming their teams can control the inevitable late-stage attacks. This stage should end in a sprint, but the late climb offers the possibility for a motivated rider to play the spoiler.

Who to Watch

With two mountain stages in their legs, the sprinters may feel slightly less frisky at the finish in Murcia than they did during the first week. André Greipel and his Columbia-HTC have kept an iron grip on the sprints during the first week of this Vuelta a España. When Greipel didn’t win, his lead-out Greg Henderson finished the deal. Borut Božič managed to spoil Columbia’s game during stage 6, but the other sprinters come up empty-handed in the final kilometer. Look for Tom Boonen of Quick Step, Daniele Bennati of Liquigas-Doimo, and Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream to try to change their fortunes and snatch a stage victory from the Columbia-HTC juggernaut.

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