Post Stage Analysis

First Stage Win for Tyler Farrar
American takes sprint in Caravaca de la Cruz, Valverde still in Gold

9 Big Photos from Stage 11sirotti

Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream celebrated his first ever grand tour victory today in Caravaca de la Cruz. The American went from a long way out and held his speed all the way to the line. Philippe Gilbert of Silence-Lotto finished second and Marco Marcato of Vacansoleil was third in the slightly uphill sprint to the line. The general classification favorites arrived safely together at the finish, and Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d'Epargne continues to lead Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto by 7 seconds and Robert Gesink of Rabobank by 36 seconds. Tomorrow, the Vuelta enjoys its second rest day before heading into the mountains for three successive mountain-top finishes.

A flurry of breakaway attempts animated the early kilometers of the stage as it departed Murcia. After 40 kilometers of racing, a group of four snapped the elastic and went up the road. David Moncoutié of Cofidis, Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil, David De La Fuente of Fuji-Sevetto and Amets Txurruka of Euskaltel-Euskadi formed the successful break, but De La Fuente soon found the pace too high and dropped back. De La Fuente conceded not only the chance at the stage victory, but also his lead in the Mountains classification, because Moncoutié began the day just 1 point behind the Fuji-Servetto rider. Now, Moncoutié had a clear shot at scooping up the points on offer today on the category 1 Alto Collado Bermejo and the category 2 Alto Campo de San Juan. The main field proved content to let the three-rider break go, and before too long, they had built up an advantage of over 9 minutes. The Caisse d'Epargne team of Alejandro Valverde, meanwhile, set an unhurried pace on the front of the main field.

As the Alto de San Juan, approached, Liquigas-Doimo began contributing to the chase in the hope of setting up their sprinter Daniele Bennati. As Liquigas-Doimo pushed on the front over the climb, Oscar Freire, André Greipel, Tom Boonen, and Tyler Farrar all dropped out of the main field. With Bennati among the few surviving sprinters in the bunch, Liquigas-Doimo continued to work on the front. Over the top of the Alto de San Juan, David Moncoutié took the points and added to his lead in the Mountains classification. Moncoutié's Cofidis team-mate Rein Taramae also sprinted out of the main field to take the points for fifth and help defend the French climber's lead. Ryder Hesjdahl of Garmin-Slipstream, meanwhile, drove hard in the chase group in the effort to bring his team's sprinter Tyler Farrar back to the main field. Juan Manuel Garate of Rabobank also dropped back to help pace Oscar Freire back to the front.

The pace-making by Liquigas-Doimo cut the gap to the breakaway significantly and with 45 kilometers to go, the gap stood at just 24 seconds. The break did not fight the inevitable, and soon it was all back together. As the main field caught the break, a counter-attack came from Rémy DiGregorio of Français des Jeux. Though widely touted for his climbing talents, the young French rider has not enjoyed much success lately. Today's solo attack did not seem likely to accomplish much more than television time for DiGregorio with Liquigas-Doimo determined to set up a sprint finish. For the next 20 kilometers, DiGregorio rode just ahead of the main field, and never gained much more than 40 seconds. Despite the hard work from Liquigas-Doimo, the chase group which included Tyler Farrar, André Greipel, and Oscar Freire returned to the main field. As the race passed Archivel with 18 kilometers to race, the main field numbered some 60 riders with all the big sprinters except Tom Boonen of Quick Step back in the fold.

Just past Archivel, the main field still driven by Liquigas-Doimo swallowed up Rémy DiGregorio. Linus Gerdemann, who flatted out of the winning break yesterday, launched a counter-attack, a move that was never going to accomplish much of anything. With 15 kilometers to go, Gerdemann's bid for freedom ended, and it was all back together. As the kilometers continued to tick down to the inevitable sprint, Liquigas-Doimo continued to flay themselves on the front for Daniele Bennati. Columbia-HTC and Rabobank also moved up.

Inside the final 3 kilometers, Liquigas-Doimo led the bunch through a swoopy roundabout and toward the long uphill drag to the finish line. Under the red kite, Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank tried to ride away from the sprinters, but came up short. The Cancellara attack mixed up the sprint trains and made for a chaotic sprint. After the hard work of his Liquigas-Doimo team, Bennati lost the plot in the finale when he tried to follow Cancellara. Across the road, meanwhile, David Millar of Garmin-Slipstream put in a big effort to deliver Tyler Farrar to the sprint. Farrar took over from Millar from a long way out, and no one could come around the American. After a string of second place finishes, Tyler Farrar celebrated his first ever grand tour victory today. Philippe Gilbert of Silence-Lotto, who does not frequently figure in the bunch sprints, finished second, followed by Marco Marcato of Vacansoleil, Inaki Isasi of Euskaltel-Euskadi, and André Greipel of Columbia-HTC. With his stage victory today, Farrar moved up to second in the Points Classification. The Garmin-Slipstream rider trails André Greipel by 7 points.

The general classification remains unchanged today. Alejandro Valverde wears the Gold Jersey of race leader followed by Cadel Evans at 7 seconds seconds and Robert Gesink at 36 seconds. Cadel Evans still wears the White Jersey of Combination leader. The Red Jersey of mountains leader changed hands today, and after his long day out in the breakaway, David Moncoutié returns to the top of the standings. The Cofidis rider leads David De La Fuente of Fuji-Servetto by 14 points.

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 a España takes a rest day before heading back into the mountains. Only the climbers will enjoy the next three stages with their difficult climbing and uphill finishes. The general classification may look very different by the end of this weekend. Watch for full previews for the mountain stages to appear here in the coming days, and of course, daily updates. See you on Friday! (Update: For more details on Friday's mountain stage, please turn the page.)

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Course Preview

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Stage 11 Murcia - Caravaca de la Cruz

Terrain Type: Middle mountains, breakaway country.
GC Importance: Don’t count on it.

The Vuelta picks up where it left off, departing from Murcia. The profile includes two categorized climbs, the category 1 Alto Collado Bermejo and the category 2 Alto Campo de San Juan. The 17 kilometer Alto Collado Bermejo will likely limit the sprinters’ chances of surviving to the finish, though the final 40 kilometers of the stage cover descending terrain. If the sprinters’ teams are feeling frisky, they could bring the race back together before the finish. After consulting with the all-knowing Magic Eight Ball, I’m going to call it for the breakaway to survive to Caravaca de la Cruz.

Caravaca de la Cruz sits in the shadow of the Sierra de Segura on the left bank of the Argos river. The castle district dominates the city and within the castle walls stands the Basílica de la Santísma y Vera Cruz which dates from 1617. The Basílica houses a sacred relic, believed to be a fragment of the cross from the crucifixion of Christ. The faithful attribute healing powers to the Cruz de Caravaca, and each year, Caravaca celebrates a festival in May. The most recent visit of the Vuelta a España to city came in 2004. David Zabriskie celebrated his first ever grand tour stage victory after a lengthy solo breakaway. The American, who currently rides for Garmin-Slipstream, remains one of the few active riders who have won stages in all three grand tours.

Profile Details

It’s another day of riding in circles at the Vuelta a España with this stage which starts in Murcia heads southwest, then northeast, then plays ring around Caravaca de la Cruz. The first 30 kilometers of the stage are flat, as the course heads southwest and rolls along the boundary of the Parque Regíonal de Carrasco y El Valle. The stage passes through Sangonera la Verde and El Cañarico on the way to the first intermediate sprint of the day. Los Ventorrillos hosts the first intermediate sprint which comes at kilometer 21.5. After the sprint, the course turns north, and heads toward Alhama de Murcia.

The first categorized climb sits just outside Alhama de Murcia in the Parque Natural Sierra Espuña. The Alto Collado Bermejo climbs 930 meters over 17.8 kilometers. The Collado Bermejo has an average gradient of 5.3% and reaches a maximum gradient of 8.5%. The steepest section comes at kilometer 7. The gradients flatten about halfway up the climb and there are two kilometers of false flat. Then, the road tilts up and the road rises steadily to the summit at 1200 meters. The length and gradient ensure that the Alto Collado Bermejo will create a selection in the field. At the same time, the summit comes at kilometer 50, which is 150 kilometers from the stage finish. Though the climb will toughen the race and send some riders in search of the grupetto, it should neither decide the stage nor influence the general classification.

From the summit of the Alto Collado Bermejo, the road descends approximately 8 kilometers to a plateau and the next 16 kilometers are mostly flat. Just past Zorzadilla de Totana, the course rolls over a molehill-sized uncategorized climb which summits around kilometer 75. Then it’s just under 25 kilometers of descending and flat terrain to Bullas. The Vuelta stays in the flats for the next 40 kilometers as it passes through Cehegin and makes its first visit to Caravaca de la Cruz. The second intermediate sprint of the day comes at kilometer 125.9 in Caravaca de la Cruz.

The course turns north after the first visit to Caravaca de la Cruz, and after passing through Moratalla, the riders will reach the base of the second categorized climb at kilometer 140. Rated a category 2, the Alto Campo de San Juan is long, but the gradients are relatively kind. It’s a 10.7 kilometer pedal to the summit at 1225 meters above sea level and the average gradient is 5%. The Alto Campo de San Juan summits at kilometer 150.7 and there remains just under 50 kilometers to race. The course rolls along a plateau for around 10 kilometers, before beginning the 40 kilometer descent to the finish.

The stage traces a counter-clockwise circle around Caravaca de la Cruz and as the course begins to descend it passes through Archivel to the southwest of the city. The course then loops southeast through Barranda as it continues its descent to the finale. At Barranda, the course turns northeast and heads at last to the finish in Caravaca de la Cruz. The profile descends to the final kilometers. At the last possible moment, the road levels out, and the final kilometers to the line are flat. The lengthy descent will make it nearly impossible for a solo rider to stay away from the summit of the Alto Campo de San Juan, and a small group should survive to contest the finish in Caravaca de la Cruz.

Who to Watch

This stage will most likely favor the breakaway riders, though the sprinters’ team could bring the race back together on the long descent to the finish, if they have the legs and the motivation. After two hard mountain stages and a surfeit of incidental climbing, that may be a big ask for the flat-landers of the sprint trains. Watch for Xacobeo-Galicia, Contentpolis-Ampo, Bbox Bouygues Télécom, and Vacansoleil to animate the early kilometers in search of the lucky break. Contenders for the King of the Mountains jersey may also choose to join the break today and scoop up the points on the two categorized climbs. The stage victory will go to a rider who can climb well and has sufficient speed to win on flat roads from a small group. Magic Eight Ball says: Cannot predict now.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->