As expected a group was eventually allowed to head off into the Andalucían sun, but only after a battle headed by the Astana team. Their lead was never allowed too much head and on the final climb they exploded and the real race commenced. Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Igor Anton looked to have the win, but the Czech Leopold König (Netapp-Endura) jumped after him and passed the suffering Basque for the big win as Nico Roche craftily scooped the Red leaders jersey.
Stage 8 from Jerez de la Frontera to Estepona finishes at the top of the Cat 1 Alto de Peñas Blancas after 166.6 kilometres. There are no other categorised climbs during the stage, but the profile is quite lumpy in the middle. The action will come on the final climb to the Alto de Peñas Blancas which climbs from 20 to 980 metres altitude in 14.5 kilometres with an average gradient of 6.8% and the steepest ramp of 11.5%. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Chris Horner (RadioShack Leopard) both say that there will not be any big gaps caused by the finishing climb, but the bonus seconds will be important.
Stage 8 preview by Global Cycling Network with Google Maps Fly Through
A Hot Start
The temperatures in the south of Spain at this time of year are a little lower than a few weeks ago, but at the start in Jerez it was 29ºC in the shade and it wasn’t long before the first attack went up the road. Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step was first, he was caught and then Wouter Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) had a go.
Bad news is that Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin didn’t make the start line today due to his injuries from a late crash in yesterday’s stage. Garmin-Sharp’s DS Bingen Fernandez explained: “His head hit the ground, he had vertigo when he stood up after eating his dinner last night, so this morning the doctor decided he wouldn’t start as a precautionary measure. It’s a pity because we don’t really have any other card to play, so we’ll hunt for stage wins.”
Poels attempt didn’t last long as he was replaced by a group of 9 and in turn another group of 11, which became 12, tried their hardest to take any sort of lead after 20 kilometres, Astana didn’t like the look of them and they too failed. Georg Preidler (Argos-Shimano), Juan Jose Oroz (Eusaltel-Euskadi), Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) also had a go, but again Astana didn’t approve.
The Break of the Day
Eventually, after 28 kilometres of attacks and chases the break of the day formed with 8 riders who were then joined by a further 6 to give a strong group of 14 up the road. At the 40 kilometre mark they had 2 minutes on the peloton. The group were: Dario Cataldo (Sky), Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step), Ben Gastauer (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Rafael Valls Ferri (Vacansoleil-DCM), Francis De Greef (Lotto Belisol), Jorge Azanza (Eusaltel-Euskadi), Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp), Bartosz Huzarski (Team Netapp-Enduro), Thierry Hupond (Argos-Shimano), Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge), Matthew Busche (RadioShack Leopard), Dominik Nerz (BMC), Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Beñat Intxausti (Movistar). This group fitted the bill for Astana and was allowed to move steadily away.
After 50 kilometres the lead was getting near 3 minutes which put Netapp-Endura’s Bartosz Huzarski in the virtual overall lead. This was holding the break back and so he sat up allowing the escape to extend its lead to over 4 minutes.
Going into the third hour of racing; the 13 leaders hovered just under the 5 minute mark, now that Netapp-Endura didn’t have a rider in the break they started to chase behind and the lead started to fall.
100 Kilometre’s Ridden
Netapp-Endura was in control of the peloton as all the riders in the escape were working well together and the lead was under 4 minutes.
Down towards the coast on a big, wide dual carriageway with the sea in the distance, the lead had come down to 3 minutes with 30 kilometres to go and everyone was readying themselves for the big climb to come.
Vacansoleil-DCM along with Katusha moved to the front with Netapp-Endura as the race entered the holiday resort of Estepona and the last 25 kilometres of the stage with 10 K’s to the hardest part of the climb, as the first ramp is just under 12% gradient.
2 kilometres before the climb and the pace in the bunch shot up under the impetus of Cannondale and the lead plummeted to a handful of seconds above 1 minute.
The Alto de Peñas Blancas
At the start of the climb the 13 leaders had 45 seconds as RadioShack Leopard and Katusha hit the front. The leaders had Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Oroz on the front but they were falling to pieces on the steepest part of the climb.
Dario Cataldo of Sky took over at the front and burnt everyone off except Dominik Nerz (BMC) and Rafa Valls (Vacansoleil-DCM). Fabian Cancellara was doing the damage for Chris Horner and the main bunch was down to around 50 or 60 riders, 10 kilometres to go and the lead was 49 seconds.
As the bunch caught Matt Busche, his RadioShack Leopard team mate Cancellara sat up and Horner moved on the wheel of Busche to lead him further up the hill. With 8 hard kilometres to go the chase bunch could see the 3 ahead and the race was down to about 20 or so riders and the red jersey of Nibali could be seen very close to the front.
Nerz wanted to stay out front a little longer and put the pressure on and dropped Valls and put Cataldo into trouble.
Under the 5K banner and the lead was over and that left the lead group to fight it out over the last sections of the climb. Alessandro Valverde had Joaquim Rodriguez on his Wheel in the bunch as Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) attacked and was followed by Eros Capecchi (Movistar) and Ivan Santaromita (BMC). This ignited an attack from Chris Horner who was joined by Nibali and Basso, but this brought it all back together.
Ivan Basso showed his form.
2 kilometres to go and Nibali, Henao and Horner led the chase, but not anywhere near full effort, Leopold Konig for Netapp-Endura used the easing off to attack in a similar fashion to stage 2. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Dani Moreno (Katusha), Bart de Clercq (Lotto Belisol) and Ivan Basso (Cannondale) jumped after him with Nico Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) on the tail.
Anton struggled on into the last K with Konig closing in on him and passing the blowing Basque with less than 300 metres to go and pushed on for the victory. Moreno left the group but didn’t have enough road to catch Konig and took second. Next up the steep finish was Nico Roche who had jumped Pinot, Basso and de Clercq and Anton held on for 7th ahead of Valverde and Rodriguez.
Stage winner Leopold König.
Stage winner Leo Koenig: “This is for sure incredible and I am more than happy. I told the team this morning that I want to win this stage and asked for the support of the whole team. The guys were amazing. They had to stand up against the whole peloton and we did it. I am proud that we realized the victory together. That was so important for us. Now everyone realizes that we are able to play our cards. Leaving today’s victory behind me, I will focus on this tough stage tomorrow because it is a new opportunity and we are here to take all opportunities. I want to repay the team for its great work and of course the Vuelta organization for trusting us with a wildcard.”
Second on the stage Dani Moreno (Katusha): “Unfortunately in the final part I wasn’t able to catch Konig, but I have to admit I was full gas so I did my best. RadioShack Leopard team kept a great pace from the beginning, then Basso attacked in the final part and he was incredibly strong. I think he’s in a great shape and he will be one of the protagonists of this competition. Anyways, both Purito and me have good feelings too, and we make a parallel race in order to take advantage of every chance we can take. Tomorrow in Valdepenas de Jaen there will be another stage suitable to Joaquim and me, and we want to take a good result.”
Nico Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) had made the correct move by following Ivan Basso and with that he moved into the overall lead 17 seconds ahead of Chris Horner and 18 to Dani Moreno.
New overall leader Nico Roche: “I was so close in the Tour de France to the overall lead, just eight seconds back, and I had to give it everything here. I was a bit on the limit at one point when I accelerated, but I really wanted to try and get the lead.”
The new overall leader Nico Roche.
Will the excitement ever end? Stay PEZ for the blow-by-blow action.
Vuelta a España Stage 8 Result:
1. Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura in 4:09:46
2. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha at 0:01
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Saxo-Tinkoff at 0:05
4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
5. Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale
6. Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol at 0:08
7. Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 0:13
8. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar at 0:19
9. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
10. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky at 0:23.
Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 8:
1. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Saxo-Tinkoff in 31:39:30
2. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard Trek at 0:17
3. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 0:18
5. Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura at 0:29
6. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard Trek at 0:30
7. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar at 0:31
8. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky at 0:42
9. Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo-Tinkoff at 0:52
10. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha at 1:03.