Mark Cavendish left his rivals in his wake thanks to a fantastic lead out from Matt Goss in Stage 12 of the Vuelta this afternoon, claiming the sprint in Lleida where, in the race's only previous finish there 21 years ago, Britain's Malcolm Elliott had been the winner. Cavendish now joins a select group of riders to have won a stage in each of cycling's three Grand Tours and is only the second Briton to have done so, Robert Millar being the first.
Igor Anton retains the race leader’s red jersey, but Cavendish moves back ahead of the Euskaltel-Esukadi rider and Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert in the points classification and will wear the green jersey tomorrow.
That, too, could be another good omen from the past – when Elliott, who turns 50 next birthday but is still racing in top UK domestic competition, won here in 1989, he went on to win the points competition, although back then the jersey was coloured blue.
For now, he remains the only British rider to have won the points competition at any of the three Grand Tours, with Cavendish finishing second in the race for the green jersey at the last two editions of the Tour de France.
Such was Cavendish’s margin of victory today that he said afterwards that he was keen for Goss, who finished third on the stage, to come back past him and take the stage, but with the riders behind regrouping following a tricky final corner that the HTC-Columbia pair had rounded with a noticeable gap on the rest of the bunch, the Manxman said he decided to go for the line himself to ensure victory.
Today, the race headed out of its Pyrenees following yesterday’s visit to Andorra and back into Catalonia, with the 173km stage starting amid the duty free shopping streets of the principality’s capital, Andorra La Vella.
The stage had a predominantly downhill profile punctuated by one Category 2 climb, the Col de Boixols, where points were claimed by members of a nine-man breakaway group, who also carved up the intermediate sprint points behind them, but the escapees were swept up by the peloton with around 20 kilometres left to ride as first Garmin-Transitions, then HTC-Columbia, took up position at the front of the peloton ahead of the finale.
On a technical run-in towards the line in Lleida, it was Goss and Cavendish who made the crucial move to get to the tight final right-hander ahead of the field, with the latter even having time to look over his shoulder to see how far back his rivals were.
Chief among those was Garmin-Slipstream’s Tyler Farrar, who took second place on the stage, and also moves into the number-two spot in the points competition, which in the Vuelta allocates equal points across all stages, rather than being biased towards sprint stages as it is in the Tour de France.
That helps explain why Anton remains in third place and Gilbert fourth and why, should Cavendish win the green jersey in Madrid a week on Sunday, it would perhaps be even more of an achievement for a pure sprinter than winning the points competition in the Tour de France, as well as being perfect prepaaration for next month's World Championships in Australia.
Vuelta Stage 12 result 1 CAVENDISH, Mark (HTC-Columbia) 4h 00' 30'' 2 FARRAR, Tyler (Garmin-Transition All at same time 3 GOSS, Matthew Harley (HTC-Columbia) 4 GALIMZYANOV, Denis (Katusha) 5 HUSHOVD, Thor (Cervelo TestTeam) 6 FREIRE, Óscar (Rabobank) 7 DAVIS, Allan (Astana) 8 WEYLANDT, Wouter (Quickstep) 9 CHAVANEL, Sébastien (Francaise des Jeux) 10 GILBERT, Philippe (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 11 FURLAN, Angelo (Lampre-Farnese Vini) 12 BENNATI, Daniele (Liquigas-Doimo) 13 CARDOSO, Manuel (Footon-Servetto) 14 BONNET, William (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) 15 MONTENEGRO, Jorge (Andalusia Cajasur) 16 BOS, Theo (Cervelo TestTeam) 17 FÖRSTER, Robert (Milram) 18 MATA, Enrique (Footon-Servetto) 19 FERNÁNDEZ Koldo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 20 HINAULT, Sébastien (AG2R-La Mondiale) Vuelta overall standings after Stage 12 1 ANTON, Igor (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 51h 37' 45'' 2 NIBALI, Vincenzo (Liquigas-Doimo) + 45'' 3 TONDO, Xavier (Euskaltel-Euskadi) + 1' 04'' 4 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin (Katusha) + 1' 17'' 5 MOSQUERA, Ezequiel (Xacobeo-Galicia) + 1' 29'' 6 BRUSEGHIN, Marzio (Caisse d'Epargne) + 1' 57'' 7 PLAZA, Ruben (Caisse d'Epargne) + 2' 07'' 8 URAN, Rigoberto (Caisse d'Epargne) + 2' 14'' 9 ROCHE, Nicholas (AG2R-La Mondiale) + 2' 30'' 10 SCHLECK, Frank (Team Saxo Bank) + 2' 30'' 11 VELITS, Peter (HTC-Columbia) + 2' 37'' 12 DANIELSON, Thomas (Garmin-Transitions) + 2' 53'' 13 SASTRE, Carlos (Euskaltel-Euskadi) + 3' 03'' 14 KARPETS, Vladimir (Katusha) + 3' 16'' 15 VAN GARDEREN, Tejay (HTC-Columbia) + 3' 27'' 16 SÁNCHEZ, Luis León (Caisse d'Epargne) + 3' 40'' 17 PERAUD, Jean-Christophe (Omega Pharma-Lotto) + 4' 16'' 18 NIEVE, Mikel (Euskaltel-Euskadi) + 4' 50'' 19 GARCÍA, David (Xacobeo-Galicia) + 5' 14'' 20 MONCOUTIE, David (Cofidis) + 5' 41''
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.