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Having been part of a four-rider break, De Marchi left his rivals behind on the final climb and soloed across the line; Froome went down in an early crash before gaining 3 seconds in the uphill sprint

Photo: Sirotti

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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ALESSANDRO DE MARCHI

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HUBERT DUPONT

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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RYDER HESJEDAL

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VUELTA A ESPAÑA

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29.08.2014 @ 18:04 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) finally got the just reward for his many attacks when he won today’s stage 7 of the Vuelta a Espana by launching one of his trademark attacks. Having been part of a strong 4-rider group, he left his rivals behind when Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) went down in a crash and held off his chasers to take a solo victory. Chris Froome (Sky) went down in an early crash but gained 3 seconds in the uphill sprint while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) retained the leader’s jersey.

 

This year Alessandro De Marchi came close to a big stage victory in the mountains on several stages of the Tour de France but he always came up against a stronger rider. Today things finally came together for the strong Italian and future BMC riders when he emerged as the best from a four-rider breakaway in stage 7 of the Vuelta a Espana.

 

After a very hectic and fast start, De Marchi joined forces with Ryder Hesjedal, Johann Tschopp (IAM) and Hubert Dupont (Ag2r) on the first climb of the day and the quartet were allowed to build an advantage of 7 minutes before the peloton reacted. As Movistar showed no interest in the stage, it was Trek who started to chase and after a little while, they got assistance from Lampre-Merida.

 

Inside the final 30km, the two teams really committed to the chase but it was all too late and every early it was clearly that they were never going to get back in contention. Instead, the four escapees started to attack each other as the battle for the stage win started.

 

The first rider to get dropped was Dupont but the dramatic highlight happened a little later when Hesjedal’s bike slipped and the Canadian hit the ground. Despite being unhurt, he had lost contact with the leaders and he never managed to rejoin the front.

 

At the bottom of the final 13km climb to the finish, De Marchi attacked and easily rode away from Tschopp. From there, he extended his advantage all the way to the line and even though the three chasers joined forces, they could not prevent De Marchi from winning the stage.

 

Earlier on, a real drama had taken place when Chris Froome was again involved in a crash. Apparently in a lot of pain, the Brit was dropped in the frantic first hour and at one point, he was a minute behind the peloton.

 

As things settled, Froome rejoined the peloton and he seemed to recover well throughout the stage. When the peloton hit the finishing straight and Dan Martin (Garmin) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) launched long sprint, the Sky leader responded. He didn’t manage to pass the punchier riders but by rolling across the line in 7th, he gained 3 seconds.

 

Alejandro Valverde ended the stage in 9th and so defended his 15-seconds lead over teammate Nairo Quintana. Tomorrow he faces one of the easiest stages of the entire race as the roads are almost completely flat with no categorized climbs, meaning that a sprint finish is the likely outcome.

 

A lumpy stage

After the first the first mountain stage, it was time for one of the most unpredictable stages of the race. The riders travelled over 169km from Alhendin to Alcaudete and after 30 flat kilometres, it was an undulating affair. First the riders tackled a category 3 climb before rolling terrain led to a category 2 climb which had the finish line located halfway up its slopes. After the top, the riders descended to another rolling section before the final 15 were a long, gradual uphill.

 

All riders who started the race almost a week ago, again took the start under very hot conditions. As expected, lots of riders wanted to go on the attack on a day when the break had the first real chance of making it to the finish.

 

Lots of attacks

In the opening stages, a big 17-rider group escaped but Trek had missed the move. The American team chased had and brought things back together.

 

Matthias Krizek (Cannondale) escaped on his own and when he was caught, another 9 riders got up the road. That move swelled to 20 riders but it was too dangerous for Sky who started to chase hard.

 

A dangerous group

Manuel Quinziato (BMC), Nikias Arndt (Giant-Shimano) and Bob Jungels (Trek) attacked from that group and were later joined by Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol). This time, however, Caja Rural had missed out and they led the chase.

 

David Millar (Garmin), Pirmin Lang (IAM), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caja Rural), Simon Clarke (Orica), Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Jerome Coppel (Cofidis), Vincent Jerome (Europcar) and Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) bridged the gap to form a very big 15-rider break. However, everything got back together as they riders began the first climb of the day.

 

Froome goes down

The fast pace sent several riders out the back door when a big drama took place. Chris Froome (Sky) was involved in a crash but managed to rejoin the peloton.

 

Apparently, the Brit was hurt in his tumble and he started to suffer while an 11-rider group with Mikel Landa (Astana) took off. That group was brought back and instead Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) and Johann Tschopp (IAM) took off.

 

The break takes off

Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) and Hubert Dupont (Ag2r) bridged the gap while Steve Morabito (BMC) never made the junction despite making an attempt. Meanwhile, Froome had now been distance by one minute as Tinkoff-Saxo and Movistar were riding hard in the peloton.

 

Tschopp led Hesjedal and Dupont over the summit and as they started the descent, they were 25 seconds ahead of the peloton and 42 seconds ahead of the Froome group. The Sky captain managed to rejoin the bunch and now the pace finally went down a bit.

 

The first withdrawals

At the 58km mark, the front quartet were 1.30 ahead of the peloton while Froome went down to the medical car. After 66km of racing, they had extended their advantage to 5 minutes.

 

Having broken his finger in an earlier crash, Ivan Santaromita (Orica-GreenEDGE) became the first rider to leave the race and moments later Bryan Nauleau (Europcar) and Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) also stepped into their team cars. Meanwhile, Tschopp beat De Marchi and Hesjedal in the first intermediate sprint.

 

Trek lead the chase

In the feed zone at the 80km mark, the gap had reached 6.15. At the end of the second hour, they were 7 minutes ahead but that was as much as they would get.

 

As they started to climb the category 2 climb in the finale, Trek started to chase with Kristof Vandewalle and Fabian Cancellara and they got some assistance from Imanol Erviti (Movistar). When Hesjedal led Tschopp and Dupont across the finish line to win the final intermediate sprint, they had brought the gap down to 6.07.

 

Cancellara punctures

The peloton was now starting to splinter as Cancellara rode really fast on the front. One of the riders to get dropped was John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano).

 

As they approached the summit, Cancellara suffered a puncture and instead Julian Arredondo took over the pace-setting. Tschopp made a small attack to lead Hesjedal over the summit.

 

Nieve punctures

At the top, Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front, with Sergio Paulinho keeping Alberto Contador safe on the descent. Mikel Nieve (Sky) had suffered a puncture and he was now chasing hard one minute behind.

 

The Basque managed to rejoin the peloton but things didn’t get any easier when Lampre started to chase. Damiano Cunego, Elia Favilli and Valerio Conti joined forces with Aredondo and with 30km to go, they had brought the gap down to 4.50.

 

Hesjedal crashes

On a small climb, Nacer Bouhanni and Cadel Evans were among many riders to be in difficulty as Yaroslav Popovych was now also contributing to the pace-setting. Bob Jungels, Fabio Felline and Jose Serpa started to work too and now the gap was coming down quickly.

 

With 16km to go, the attacking started in the break where Dupont was dropped after initial accelerations by De Marchi and Hesjedal. With 14km to go, however, Hesjedal hit the deck and this left just De Marchi and Tschopp to battle it out for the stage win.

 

De Marchi takes off

At the bottom of the final rise, De Marchi left Tschopp behind and he constantly extended his advantage over the lone Swiss. Meanwhile, most of the chasers blew up and Serpa was now doing all the work in the peloton which was 3.05 behind.

 

De Marchi managed to extend his advantage to 3.25 while Hesjedal and Dupont had joined forces. The caught Tschopp with 4km to go but as Hesjedal got no help, they constantly lost ground to De Marchi who was 1.30 ahead with 3km to go.

 

A fight for position

In the peloton, the fight for position was now fierce and it was Vasil Kiryienka who set the pace for Sky. Later Adriano Malori, Eduard Vorganov and Daniele Bennati also moved up as everybody wanted to stay near the front.

 

With 1.5km to go, De Marchi started to celebrate his win and he rolled across the line in solo fashion. Hesjedal was not challenged in the sprint for second while Dupont rolled across the line in third.

 

In the finale, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Philip Deignan strong things out for Sky and Froome quickly reacted when first Martin and then Gilbert both accelerated hard. While Gilbert beat Martin in the sprint for fifth, Froome rolled across the line in 7th, gaining 3 seconds on his main rivals.

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