He may not have made contact with Tony Martin’s epic break yesterday but Marco Pinotti for BMC Racing Team did get away this afternoon, inside the first dozen kilometers. Along with the engineering genius and training guru are the black-clad Christian Knees (Sky) and Caja Rural’s Francisco Javier Aramendia .
Pinotti recently masterminded Linda Villumsen’s return to the summit of elite women’s racing when she took the Route de France with a monumental solo break; maybe he fancied trying something similar himself?
They got out to a seven minute lead before the bunch got their collective finger out. If it took them all of 174kms to catch Tony Martin yesterday, better not take too many risks with this trio on a flat stage, eh? It’s Garmin-Sharp, Orica-GreenEdge, Lampre-Merida and Argos-Shimano sharing the work. Another day off for the main contenders …
63kms left and the lead has dipped under three minutes as Christian keeps his Knees pumping, Pinotti looks for water and Aramendia rolls through to take his turn in the wind.
While it’s a sprinters day, it’s not absolutely flat. There are lumps and a bump ten kilometers from the finish, but no classified climbs, as the course heads pretty much dead south.
The peloton has a dilemma though – inside fifty to race and the lead is only two minutes. What to do? Catch too quickly and you run the risk of giving other attackers ideas. Just moderate your speed then? Cannondale decide the front of the field is where to be and send a mass of lime green in front of the TV cameras.
Aramendia does another turn and pulls left, drops back. Knees glides into the wind. Pinotti has chosen wisely – third in line, he’s tucked into the considerable slipstream of the giant German.
Their shadows fall in a straight line, riding the road behind them. It’s 37 degrees Celsius with 40 kilometers to go, and there’s not much in the way of shelter out there.
The breakaways are pouring it on as they sweep towards the finish line, Pinotti hunched over the bars as he hits the line … with 31kms to go. Into the finish town of Mairena de Aljafare and straight back out again for one big finishing loop. The peloton comes through 1’18” behind and the sprinters’ teams get a good long look at the way the road curves. Useful information stored up.
Seventeen to go and Orica-GreenEdge are shutting it down; the break is on a very short leash, but Pinotti’s not giving up as Aramendia and Knees bow to the inevitable.
The Italian is ploughing stright down the center of a three-lane highway, arms draped over the bars, but it’s all over with 15 to race.
The peloton starts to form an arrowhead, as RadioShack drill it to the line. 11 clicks from home, and Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) is bloodied on the deck. He’s got two mates with him to pace back … but it was noticeable that a couple of Garmin guys had been tailing off as if their job was done for the day.
There are quite a few roundabouts and motorway slip roads to negotiate and every time the road bends there are riders getting squeezed into the barrier. Cancellara is on the front but as he eases, there’s an attack.
It’s Zdenek Stybar (QPQS) and BMC’s world champion Philippe Gilbert. Gilbert out of the saddle on a small hill, grimacing. Six clicks to race and they have 12 seconds. The front duo are battering it at 60km/h: the road narrows and widens as they take roundabouts and corners.
3.2 to go and Gilbert skims the barriers on a very tight right-hander. The lead grows to 15 seconds as the bunch go under two clicks to race.
Ten seconds at the red kite for Gilbert and Stybar! One kilometer to race and the front of the peloton is not organised. They slow, cat-and-mouse! Gilbert looks over his shoulder. Anthony Roux (FDJ) jumps in pursuit, the peloton closes … Stybar launches down the left-hand barriers, Gilbert sits in his wheel. The peloton goes down the right.
Gilbert puts his nose in the wind and dives for the line … but Stybar hangs on by a tyre’s width.
No major overall change with Nibali in charge, but another belter of a stage today. Congrats to Zdenek Styber for yet another breakthrough Grand Tour stage win to follow Morkov yesterday, Matthews and Roche.
Keep it Pez!
Vuelta Stage 7 Result, Almendralejo – Mairena de Aljafare, 206kms
1 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 4hrs 51’ 27”
2 Phillipe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team same time
3 Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin + 1”
4 Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis
5 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM
6 Andrew Fenn (GB) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
7 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling
8 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team
9 Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team
10 Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg (SA) Argos-Shimano all same time
Vuelta Overall After Stage 7:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 27hrs 29’ 35”
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard + 3”
3 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff + 8”
4 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard + 16”
5 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team + 21”
6 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard + 26”
7 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling + 28”
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha + 31”
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff + 38”
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff + 42”