David Moncoutié back in polka dot jersey, Petacchi abandons and awaits his fate

David Lopez of Caisse d’Epargne won Stage 9 of the Vuelta a Espana in Alcoy this afternoon on a day when a 15-man break got clear early on and stayed away. It’s the first stage win in this year’s race for the team, whose strength in depth is measured by the fact that besides Lopez, who moves up to 21st overall, it also has five men in the top 20 of the general classification.

The Spaniard held on to take the stage by six seconds from Liquigas-Doimo’s Roman Kreuziger, with Katusha’s Giampaolo Caruso seven seconds down in third, with their fellow escapees strung further back along the road and the main group around seven minutes behind.

Towards the end of the 187.7-kilometre stage from Calpe, it looked like the race lead might be heading back to Omega Pharma-Lotto, whose Philippe Gilbert lost the red jersey yesterday to Igor Anton of Euskaltel-Euskadi.

The Belgian’s team mate Jean-Christophe Péraud had been the highest placed rider in the break, and for large parts of the day had been virtual race leader, eventually finishing seventh, some 55 seconds down on Lopez.

In the end, he missed out on taking the overall lead by 52 seconds as Anton crossed the line a shade over seven minutes after Lopez, although the Frenchman does rise to fifth in the GC.

While Anton would no doubt have been aware of the threat to his red jersey posed by the Frenchman, the fact that he rode hard for the line at the end of the stage was as much motivated by Katusha’s Jouaquin Rodriguez trying to get away and gain the two-second advantage that would have put him into the red jersey.

It was a good weekend’s work for one of Péraud’s fellow Frenchmen, the Cofidis rider David Moncoutié, winner of yesterday’s Stage 7, who crossed the line in fourth place today, 21 seconds behind Lopez.

The 35-year-old, who won the mountains competition in last year’s Vuelta, moved into the lead in this year’s competition ahead of Serafin Martinez of Xacobeo-Galicia after getting into today’s break.

The Frenchman now leads the competition by five points, despite Martinez’s team mate Gonzalo Rabunal getting maximum points on the first five of today’s seven categorised climbs in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to defend the jersey and deny Moncoutié the opportunity of taking it.

It hasn’t been such a good weekend, however, for Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre-Farnese Vini, winner of Friday’s Stage 7, who abandoned the race as a result of the injuries he sustained during a crash yesterday. There is now some speculation that Petacchi’s win on Friday may prove to be the last of his career.

During this year’s Tour de France, in which Petacchi won the points competition, it was revealed that the sprinter had been formally placed under investigation in Italy for doping, and CONI, the Italian Olympic Committee, is expected to present its recommendations to the Tribunale Nazionale Antidoping this week.

Should CONI recommend that Petacchi be suspended, it is expected that the 36-year-old, previously banned in 2008 following a Court of Arbitartion for Sport ruling that he had exceeded the permitted dose of an anti-asthma drug he had permission to use, will receive anything between four years and a lifetime ban.

Vuelta Stage 9 result 
1 LÓPEZ, David (Caisse d'Epargne) 5h 20' 51''
2 KREUZIGER, Roman (Liquigas-Doimo) + 6''
3 CARUSO, Giampaolo (Katusha) + 13''
4 MONCOUTIE, David (Cofidis) + 21''
5 KADRI, Biel (AG2R La Mondiale) + 27''
6 MARTÍNEZ, Egoi (Euskaltel-Euskadi) + 30''
7 PERAUD, Jean-Christophe (Omega Pharma-Lotto) + 55''
8 RABUÑAL, Gonzalo (Xacobeo-Galicia) + 2' 36''
9 PUJOL, Oscar (Cervelo TestTeam) + 3' 52''
10 VANENDERT, Jelle (Omega Pharma-Lotto) + 4' 17''
11 CATALDO, Dario (Quickstep) + 5' 22''
12 GASPAROTTO, Enrico (Astana) + 6' 25''
13 RAMÍREZ, Javier Andalusia-Cajasur + 6' 29''
14 QUEMENEUR, Perrig (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) + 6' 32''
15 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin (Katusha) + 7' 02''
16 ANTON, Igor (Euskaltel-Euskadi) + 7' 02''
17 ROCHE, Nicholas (AG2R La Mondiale) + 7' 02''
18 NIBALI, Vincenzo (Liquigas-Doimo) + 7' 02''
19 SCHLECK, Frank (Team Saxo bank) + 7' 02''
20 BRUSEGHIN, Marzio (Caisse d'Epargne) + 7' 02''

Vuelta overall standings after Stage 9 
1 ANTON, Igor (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 37h 56' 42''
2 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin (Katusha) Same time
3 NIBALI, Vincenzo (Liquigas-Doimo) + 2''
4 TONDO, Xavier (Cervelo TestTeam) + 42''
5 PERAUD, Jean-Christophe (Omega Pharma-Lotto) + 52''
6 PLAZA, Ruben (Caisse d'Epargne) + 1' 15''
7 MOSQUERA, Ezequiel (Xacobeo-Galicia) + 1' 18''
8 ROCHE, Nicholas (AG2R La Mondiale) + 1' 19''
9 BRUSEGHIN, Marzio (Caisse d'Epargne) + 1' 22''
10 VELITS, Peter (HTC-Columbia) + 1' 26''
11 VAN GARDEREN, Tejay (HTC-Columbia) + 1' 26''
12 URAN, Rigoberto (Caisse d'Epargne) + 1' 38''
13 SCHLECK, Frank (Team Saxo Bank) + 1' 47''
14 DANIELSON, Thomas (Garmin-Transitions) + 1' 52''
15 GILBERT, Philippe (Omega Pharma-Lotto) + 1' 55''
16 KARPETS, Vladimir (Katusha) + 1' 57''
17 SASTRE, Carlos (Cervelo TestTeam) + 2' 11''
18 ARROYO, David (Caisse d'Epargne) + 2' 15''
19 SÁNCHEZ, Luis León (Caisse d'Epargne) + 2' 21''
20 MENCHOV, Denis (Rabobank) + 3' 29''

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.