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Czech joins Gilbert in late attack, stays calm in tactical finale and narrowly beats the world champion in the sprint while Dan Martin loses time due to a late crash

Photo: Sirotti

PHILIPPE GILBERT

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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30.08.2013 @ 17:36 Posted by Simon Knudstrup

Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) made up for Tony Martin's big disappointment by winning today's 7th stage of the Vuelta a Espana. The Czech stayed attentive and joined a late attack by world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) before narrowly edging out his companion in a close sprint finish while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished safely in the bunch to defend his leader's jersey on the eve of the first mountain stage in Andalucia.

 

Yesterday Omega Pharma-Quick Step were hugely disappointed when Tony Martin was caught by the peloton just 30m from the line in the Vuelta a Espana. Today the team made up for their near-miss on the first possible occasion when Zdenek Stybar won the 7th stage of the race.

 

The Czech - who recently won two stages and the overall of the Eneco Tour - stayed attentive in a hectic finale when Philppe Gilbert attacked on a small climb 10km from the finish. He latched onto the wheel of the world champion and the duo cooperated well to keep the peloton at bay.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE did their utmost to chase down the strong break and brought the gap down to just 6 seconds. However, the Australians ran out of manpower and when the disappeared from the front, none of the fellow sprint teams took over. Instead, Jose Ivan Gutierrez kept his Movistar leader Alejandro Valverde safe on the front but that only allowed the gap to grow back up to almost 20 seconds.

 

Sky tried to organize a chase for Edvald Boasson Hagen while an Orica-GreenEDGE rider got back to the front. Inside the final kilometres, FDJ and Reinhardt Van Rensburg (Argos) did their best to reel in the break.

 

They almost made it when Gilbert and Stybar started to look at each other, the Czech refusing to take his turn on the front. Sensing that he was about to lose an opportunity, he launched a long sprint and seemed to take a convincing win. However, he faded towards the end and Gilbert approached quickly in the final metres.

 

When they crossed the line, Stybar raised his arms in celebration but the photo showed that it had been a very close win. Gilbert was once again denied a win in the rainbow jersey while Robert Wagner (Belkin) beat Adrien Petit (Cofidis) in a very confusing sprint for 3rd,  1 second behind the winning dup.

 

Daniel Martin (Garmin) had a bad day with a late crash. Supported by his teammate, the Irishman did his best to rejoin the peloton but never managed to do so.

 

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) stayed safe throughout the day and keeps his 3-second lead over Chris Horner (Radioshack). His position will come under threat on tomorrow's first Andalucian mountain stage of the race.

 

A final opportunity for the sprinters

With three GC stages coming up, the sprinters had their last opportunity for almost a week on today's 205,9km 7th stage. The route was almost completely flat and everything suggested that the fast finishers would have their say today.

 

The stage was off to a fast start with a Vacansoleil rider launching the day's first attack. The first noticeable gap was created by Laurent Mangel (FDJ), Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural), Martin Kohler (BMC), Tosh Van Der Sande (Lotto) and Jan Barta (NetApp) but that group was deemed too big by Orica-GreenEDGE who closed it down.

 

A trio gets clear

Instead, Marco Pinotti (BMC), Christian Knees (Sky) and Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) escaped and they were allowed to build up a gap of 7.30 while Astana set a gentle pace in the peloton. That was, however, as much as they would get as Lampre started to chase, the Italian team having plenty of confidence in Maximilano Richeze who had twice finished 2nd.

 

Lampre brought the gap down to 6 minutes when they were joined by Garmin, Orica-GreenEDGE and Argos-Shimano. Later Omega Pharma-Quick Step also decided to assist and those 5 teams brought the gap down to 4 minutes.

 

5 riders lead the chase

Having slowed down through the feed zone, the sprint teams allowed the advantage to grow to 5.30 before Nick Nuyens (Garmin), Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEDGE), Tom Stamsnijder (Argos-Shimano), Matteo Bono (Lampre) and Kristof Vandewalle (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) went back to the front. Those 5 riders did a good job to gradually bring down the gap and the sprint teams appeared to have learnt a lesson from yesterday's near-miss.

 

With 31km to go, the riders crossed the finish line for the first time to start a lap on a final, very technical finishing circuit. To keep Joaquim Rodriguez safe, Katusha took over the pace-setting with Dmitriy Kozontchuk, Vladimir Isaychev, Luca Paolini, Giampaolo Caruso and Angel Vicioso all taking turns on the front.

 

Katusha in control

The Russian team set a very fast pace and with 17km to go, they had almost caught the break. However, Pinotti refused to give up and the Italian launched another acceleration to remain clear of the main group. 2km further down the road, it was, however, all over for the time trial specialist.

 

Radioshack now hit the front with Fabian Cancellara, Ben Hermans, Markel Irizar and Matthew Busche stringing out the peloton on a number of small hills on the circuit. Riders started to drop off while Martin was unlucky to crash and faced a hard chase to get back to the fast-moving peloton.

 

Gilbert attacks

Over the top of a small hill, Gilbert launched his acceleration and Stybar was quick to react. Valverde and Cancellara tried to bridge across but were brought back by Orica-GreenEDGE who did their utmost to keep everything under control.

 

With 5km to go, they had almost brought it back together but when their last man ran out of power, the peloton slowed down. This set up the exciting finale in which Stybar took his first ever grand tour stage win.

 

Result:

1. Zdenek Stybar 4.51.27

2. Philippe Gilbert

3. Robert Wagner +0.01

4. Adrien Petit

5. Juan Antonio Flecha

6. Andrew Fenn

7. Edvald Boasson Hagen

8. Danilo Wyss

9. Reinhardt Van Rensburg

10. Klaas Lodewyck

 

General classification:

1. Vincenzo Nibali 27.29.35

2. Chris Horner +0.03

3. Nicolas Roche +0.08

4. Haimar Zubeldia +0.16

5. Alejandro Valverde +0.21

6. Robert Kiserlovski +0.26

7. Rigoberto Uran +0.28

8. Daniel Moreno +0.31

9. Rafal Majka +0.38

10. Roman Kreuziger +0.42

 

Points classification:

1. Michael Matthews 53

2. Daniel Moreno 48

3. Maximiliano Richeze 40

4. Nicolas Roche 38

5. Gianni Meersman 38

 

Mountains classification:

1. Nicolas Roche 11

2. Nicolas Edet 8

3. Daniel Moreno 6

4. Winner Anacona 5

5. Domenico Pozzovivo 4

 

Combination classification:

1. Nicolas Roche 8

2. Daniel Moreno 13

3. Chris Horner 19

4. Alejandro Valverde 19

5. Joaquim Rodriguez 42

 

Teams classification:

1. Radioshack 81.29.16

2. Saxo-Tinkoff +0.05

3. Belkin +1.10

4. NetApp-Endura +1.25

5. Movistar +1.28

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