Post Stage Analysis

Roux Punks the Sprinters
Anthony Roux wins from the break, overall standings remain unchanged

9 Big Photos from Stage 17sirotti

French rider Anthony Roux played today's finish to perfection and celebrated his first ever Vuelta a España stage win. The Français des Jeux rider won just ahead of the on-coming sprint field, after dropping breakaway partner Martijn Maaskant of Garmin-Slipstream just inside one kilometer to go. William Bonnet of Bbox Bouygues Télécom won the sprint for second, followed by André Greipel and Daniele Bennati. With his third place finish, Greipel added to his points total and he continues to wear the Green Jersey. Alejandro Valverde, meanwhile, still wears the Gold Jersey of race leader, and despite a crash that took down Robert Gesink and Ezequiel Mosquera, the general classification remains unchanged.

The stage began with a few abandons as Damiano Cunego and Alessandro Ballan headed home to prepare for the World Championship road race in Mendrisio. Wouter Weylandt of Quick-Step suffered a cracked collarbone in the crash at the end of yesterday's stage, and though the Belgian started today's stage, he found it impossible to continue. Stuart O'Grady of Saxo Bank has also left the Vuelta. Adios Amigos!

A five rider break escaped early in this flat stage, which seemed destined to end in a sprint. The break included some strong legs, though, and the finale proved far from routine. The escape included Martijn Maaskant of Garmin-Slipstream, Markel Irizar of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Francisco José Martínez Peréz of Andalucia-Cajasur, Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil, and Anthony Roux of Français des Jeux. The five soon built up an advantage of around 5:00. The general classification teams took the day off today, while Milram and Columbia-HTC took up the task of chasing down the escapists.

With just over 60 kilometers to race, a crash interrupted the tranquility of the main field. Robert Gesink, Juan José Cobo, Ezequiel Mosquera, and Tom Danielson all went down. Though they proved able to continue, Gesink and Mosquera looked considerably worse for wear. Mosquera cracked his helmet and reported feeling dizzy, while Gesink suffered a cut near his knee. Both riders went to hospital after the stage for evaluation. Gesink reported later that he had received 8 stitches in his knee, and would see how he felt tomorrow.

Under the impetus of the sprinters' teams, the gap to the break began to fall. The hard racing of this Vuelta has made for tired legs in the bunch, and the chase effort looked a little ragged. With 15 kilometers to race, the break still had 2:09 over the main field, despite some hard efforts on the front from Milram, Columbia-HTC, and Liquigas-Doimo. A steady wind blew pushing the field into the right-hand gutter and slowing the chase. With 8 kilometers to race, the break still had just over 1:00 over the main field, and now had a slim chance of surviving to the finish.

The road ran downhill to the finish in Talavera de la Reina, and the chase began to gain momentum inside 6 kilometers to go. Sensing their chance was slipping away, the break began to attack one another. The first move came from Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil. Maaskant proved quick to cover. With the gap falling all the time, Westra drove on the front of the break. Just past the 3 kilometers to go banner, Martijn Maaskant went up the road from the break. No one followed immediately. For a time, it looked as if Maaskant would survive to celebrate his first grand tour victory, but behind, Anthony Roux of Français des Jeux had set out from the break in pursuit of the young Dutch rider.

Under the red kite, Maaskant remained out in front with Roux closing in fast. Behind, the sprint teams were winding up their lead-outs in anticipation of playing for the stage win. Just past 1 kilometer to go, Roux caught Maaskant. In a crafty piece of bike play, the French rider lingered on Maaskant's wheel briefly before attacking hard. Maaskant cursed his legs as he could not follow the acceleration of Roux. The sprinters soon came over the top of Maaskant, but Roux continued to hold a small gap to the line. No time for a victory salute, Anthony Roux crossed the line just ahead of the charging field sprint. After the stage, Roux said, "I stayed on Maaskant's wheel, then I saw the field was coming. At 500 meters, I gave it everything to get to the line." The 22 year old finished second in the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2007 and turned professional last year. Today marked his second win of the season after he won a stage of the Circuit Cycliste de la Sarthe, but certainly his most important professional victory to date.

Another French rider, William Bonnet of Bbox Bouygues Télécom finished second, followed by André Greipel, Daniele Bennati, and Francisco José Pacheco of Contentpolis-Ampo. Bonnet has been steadily moving up the sprint ranks this season, and is inching closer to a stage victory. The general classification riders all rolled in with the main field, and the overall standings remain unchanged after today's adventures.

Tomorrow, the Vuelta returns to the mountains. The stage runs from Talavera de la Reina to Avila, and includes three categorized climbs. The most difficult climb, the Puerto de Miljares, comes relatively early in the stage, but it's all up and down to the finish in Avila. For more details on tomorrow's stage, please turn the page.

With mountains again on the horizon, here is your clip and save general classification cheat sheet:
Alejandro Valverde Caisse d'Epargne
Robert Gesink Rabobank :31
Samuel Sánchez Euskaltel-Euskadi 1:10
Ivan Basso Liquigas-Doimo 1:28
Cadel Evans Silence-Lotto 1:51
Ezequiel Mosquera Xacobeo-Galicia 1:54
Joaquim Rodríguez Caisse d'Epargne 5:53
Paolo Tiralongo Lampre-Ngc 6:34
Tom Danielson Garmin-Slipstream 8:27
Juan José Cobo Fuji-Servetto 10:45

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Course Preview

Stage 17 Cuidad Real - Talavera de la Reina

Terrain Type: Not a climb in sight. Sprinter party.
GC Importance: Another tranquilo day.

It’s another day for the sprinters on this stage running between Cuidad Real and Talavera de la Reina. There is nary a climb in sight, and indeed, the profile has no categorized climbs on offer. The course heads directly north and finishes just west of Madrid. The riders can almost see the finale of this Vuelta, and there are only four stages left to race.

The Vuelta races through the center of Spain over flat plains. Cuidad Real sits 200 kilometers south of Madrid in the Campo de Calatrava, a flat expanse formed by ancient volcanic activity. Thermal springs dot the area. During the Middle Ages, four kilometers of walls surrounded the city, which has no natural defenses. Only a few sections of the walls remain. Cuidad Real, which served as a provincial capital of La Mancha beginning in the 17th century, is a sister city with College Station, Texas.

Talavera de la Reina lies almost directly north of Cuidad Real. The river Tajo divides the city, which the Celts founded. The first mention of the Talavera de la Reina comes from the Roman writer Livy, who described a battle between the Celtic tribe and the Romans for control of the city. The city shows its mixed history with remnants of Celtic, Roman, and Muslim, and early Christian buildings all surviving. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Talavera de la Reina became famous for its pottery and tile-work, which was exported to wealthy nobility throughout Europe. Though the city itself stands in the flatlands, the Sierra de Mejorada mountain range lies just to the north. And yes, it does rain in the plain in Spain. Talavera de la Reina has wet, rainy winters.

Profile Details

The stage rolls out from Cuidad Real, the Royal City. The terrain is not completely flat here, but the speeds will be high. The course passes through Porzuna at kilometer 28. Just outside town, the road begins a long gradual uphill drag that gains about 200 meters over 60 kilometers. It’s unlikely that anyone will notice. The stage passes through Pueblonuevo del Buyaque at kilometer 48.

At kilometer 84, the profile reaches its highest point. The next 40 kilometers descend gradually until the course reaches the town of La Puebla dal Montalbán. There remain 68 kilometers to race over mostly flat terrain as the course enters the outskirts of Toledo. Inside 30 kilometers to go, there are two intermediate sprints. The first intermediate sprint occurs at kilometer 163.4 in the town of La Pueblanueva. Nine kilometers later, it’s sprint time again. This time, there is no town involved in the sprint, and the sprint line is set at kilometer 173.3.

From the final intermediate sprint of the day, there remains 20 kilometers of racing to go. It’s all flat, all the time, and the sprinters’ teams will have no trouble chasing down any would-be escapists. Just outside Talavera de la Reina, there is a short descent, then it’s a flat run-in to the finish. The stage will almost certainly finish with a bunch sprint.

Who to Watch

Why the sprinters, of course. This stage offers one of the final chances for the sprinters to celebrate a stage victory at this Vuelta a España. The mountain stages have certainly taken their toll on the sprint field. Oscar Freire, Tom Boonen, Allan Davis, and Tyler Farrar have all left the race. But previous stage winners André Greipel and Borut Božič have remained in the race. Daniele Bennati, meanwhile, has yet to win a stage at this Vuelta. No doubt his Liquigas-Doimo team will do their best to set him up, though they may be tired after working hard for Ivan Basso through the mountains. Sprinter Iñaki Isasi from Euskaltel-Euskadi has come close on several occasions earlier in the race, and could surprise in Talavera de la Reina. Julian Dean, who typically rides lead-out for Tyler Farrar at Garmin-Slipstream, could also have a go for himself on this stage. After the weekend’s hard climbing, it’s anyone’s race in Talavera de la Reina.

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