Theo Bos (Cervélo TestTeam) won his second sprint within a week and Frantisek Rabon (HTC-Columbia) wrapped up the overall in Sunday’s final stage at the five-day Vuelta a Murcia in Spain. Keep reading below for a roundup of stages 3 – 5.
Josep Jufre (Astana) finished third and slipped into the leader’s jersey after overnight leader Robbie Hunter (Garmin-Transitions) left the race when his wife went into labor, but it was unlikely that the South African would have made it over with the first group over the day’s most climb up the Alto de Collado Bermejo.
Lance Armstrong and Andreas Klöden (RadioShack), rookie Peter Stetina (Garmin-Transitions), Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) were among a group of 30 riders who roared into Alhama to contest for victory in the 166.5km stage that featured the hardest climbs in the five-day race across Spain’s arid Murcia region. Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions), however, lost more than eight minutes on the stage and forfeited options for a run at the overall.
Team Sky helped shut down a late-stage attack before Roberts outkicked Sergey Lagutin (who was on the attack yesterday for Vacansoleil) with Jufre coming across third to take the leader’s jersey. Defending champion Denis Menchov, making his season debut for Rabobank, crossed the line fourth.
There was plenty of action in the “queen stage,” with none other than Wiggins instigating a breakaway attempt in the opening 10km. Nine other riders trailed after Wiggins, but RadioShack quickly organized a chance to snuff out the move.
A counter-attack formed immediately after and four riders were able to get away, building up an eight-minute lead heading towards a pair of first-category climbs. In the group were Michael Kwitakowski (Caja Rural), Nicki Westra (Vacansoleil), Jan Barta (NetApp) and Marcel Barth (German national team).
With Garmin-Transitions, Team Sky and RadioShack leading the chase, those guys didn’t stand a chance. Westa and Barta put in solid digs up the Cat. 1 Bermejo climb to hold a small gap, but with 23km to go to the finish line, their chances were minimal.
The main pack fractured heading up the steep climb, but most of the GC favorites regrouped for the fast run into Alhama for the group sprint. Big crowds came out to cheer the riders over the most famous climb in the area.
Peter Weening (Rabobank) attacked, drawing out Jufre, Stefan Denifl (Cervélo) and Rob Ruygh and Wouter Poels (both Vacansoleil). The quintet opened up a promising gap, putting pressure on RadioShack and Sky to lead the chase.
The group was caught with less than 3km to go to set up a bunch sprint for the win, with Roberts taking the flowers.
Top-10 Stage 3
1. Luke Roberts (AUS) Team Milram, 4:16:47
2. Sergey Lagutin (UZB) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team, s.t.
3. Josep Jufre (ESP) Astana, s.t.
4. Denis Menchov (RUS) Rabobank, s.t.
5. Andreas Klöden (GER) Team Radioshack, s.t.
6. Steven Kruijswijk (NED) Rabobank, s.t.
7. Stefan Denifl (AUT) Cervello Test Team, s.t.
8. Michel Kreder (NED) Garmin – Transitions, s.t.
9. Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Team Sky, s.t.
10. José Herrada (ESP) Caja Rural, s.t.
HTC-Columbia’s Frantisek Rabon moved into the overall lead of the Vuelta a Murcia with a convincing victory in the stage four individual time trial.
Rabon finished 33 seconds ahead of Russia’s Denis Menchov and 48 seconds ahead of Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins.
The Czech rider now leads Rabobank’s Menchov by 38 seconds with Team Sky’s Wiggins 53 seconds behind the HTC-Columbia rider on the general classification.”My performance was pretty similar, but I think the big difference overall is that last year after winning the time trial I got dropped on the mountains the following day,” said Rabon who won the same time trial in Murcia in 2009.
“This time we’ve already had the race’s most mountainous stage and I got through fine.”
While Rabon won the stage and is now in a strong position to take the overall title, all eyes were on Radioshack’s Lance Armstrong who has spent much of the off season trying to improve his time trial performance,
But Armstrong finished eighth on the stage after clocking 26 minutes 28 seconds on the 22km course.
Team Radioshack spokesman Philippe Maertens said the seven-time Tour champion was “not happy but not unhappy either.”
Armstrong said on Twitter that the race was a “tough one” while “Rabon smoked the (time trial) – very very impressive.”
“Putting serious time into Menchov, Wiggins, and Klodi ain’t easy my friends,” he continued.
The final stage of the Vuelta a Murcia is a 121,1 kilometre sprint stage to Murcia.
Top-10 Stage 4: Alhama de Murcia – Alhama de Murcia (ITT) 22km
1 Frantisek Rabon (Cze) Team HTC – Columbia 0:25:10
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:00:33
3 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:48
4 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team Radioshack 0:00:52
5 Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Team HTC – Columbia 0:01:03
6 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team 0:01:11
7 Stef Clement (Ned) Rabobank 0:01:18
8 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack
9 Josep Jufre (Spa) Astana 0:01:21
10 David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin – Transitions 0:01:23.
Theo Bos (Cervélo TestTeam) won his second sprint within a week and Frantisek Rabon (HTC-Columbia) wrapped up the overall in Sunday’s final stage at the five-day Vuelta a Murcia in Spain.
A winner ahead of Mark Cavendish in last weekend’s Clásica de Almería, Bos relegated Graeme Brown (Rabobank) to his third second-place finish in five days to win his second race in the 2010 season.
And he did it by getting over some challenging climbs and then fending off his former teammates at Rabobank to win the 121km final stage into Murcia. Rabon, who claimed Saturday’s time trial, finished safely in the main pack to secure the overall.
Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) finished third overall at 53 seconds off the pace while Lance Armstrong finished seventh overall at 1:23 back in his European racing season debut. Armstrong is traveling Monday to South Africa, where he said he hopes to meet with former president Nelson Mandela.
Overall Top 10:
1. Frantisek Rabon (Czech Republic), HTC-Columbia, 16:01:24
2. Denis Menchov (Russia), Rabobank, at 0:38
3. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain), Team Sky, at 0:53
4. Andreas Klöden (Germany), Team Radioshack, at 0:57
5. Josep Jufre Pou (Spain), Astana, at 1:21
6. Stef Clement (Netherlands), Rabobank, at 1:23
7. Lance Armstrong (United States), Team Radioshack, at 1:23
8. Pieter Weening (Netherlands), Rabobank, at 1:41
9. Luke Roberts (Australia), Milram, at 1:42
10. Tomasz Marczynski (Poland), CCC Polsat Polkowice, at 1:59