Joaquin Rodriquez of Katusha is the new leader of the 2011 Vuelta after attacking on the short but brutally steep climb in the last kilometre to San Lorenzo de El Escorial to win Stage 8 of the Spanish Grand Tour this afternoon. Michele Scarponi of Lampre-ISD, who had been first to make a move on the climb, was second, wit Bauke Mollema of Rabobank third. Tyler Farrar of Garmin Cervelo, involved in a big crash yesterday, and Rabobank's Oscar Freire, were among those to abandon the race today.
The Spaniard's win came after an impressive performance from his Katusha team in controlling the race at the front of the peloton, and the 20 seconds bonus he got for crossing the line first helps give him a 32-second cushion over the man in second place, his team mate Daniel Moreno. Another tough mountain stage looms tomorrow, but Rodriguez will be more preocuppied by Monday's individual time trial in Salamanca, having lost the race lead after a disastrous performance against the clock last year.
The crash at the end of yesterday’s stage had repercussions today for the two cyclists whose collision caused it, Tyler Farrar of Garmin Cervelo and Michal Golas of Vacansoleil-DCM. Golas needed 17 stitches due to cuts to his face sustained in the incident 100 metres from the finish line which happened as Farrar apparently drifted across him, and did not take the start today, but the Garmin-Cervelo rider did try to carry on today before giving up the ghost.
A couple of hours before the start of today's stage in Talavera de la Reina, Farrar had felt unwell and was whisked back to hospital, his race apparently over. Then, much to everyone’s surprise, he turned up ten minutes before the stage was due to start, got hold of a bike and helmet and took to the road. Just 35 killometres into the stage, though, the American accepted the inevitable and abandoned.
Others to abandon the race today while the stage was in progress were Rabobank’s three-time world champion, Oscar Freire, and the Cofidis rider, Nicolas Edet.
With Farrar heading out of the race, Garmin-Cervelo’s Heinrich Haussler was freed from the task of helping shepherd his team’s sprinter through the mountains and the German-Australian, together with Matteo Montaguti of AG2R, were the only two members of a big breakaway group of 27 riders not to be brought back.
Cofidis rider Julien Fouchard, a member of the breakaway yesterday, and Adrian Palomares of the Andalucia team, subsequently bridged across), but heading into the final12 kilometres the break was over as a number of riders started launching attacks off the front of the peloton on the undulating terrain.
Movistar’s Angel Madrazo managed to get clear distance between himself and four pursuing riders, David Moncoutie and Reim Taarame of Cofidis, Wouter Poels of Vanansoleil-DCM and Jan Bakelandts from Omega Pharma-Lotto, but was brought back with a little under five kilometres to race.
The main bunch had swallowed those escapees up ahead of the final climb to the town, dominated by its huge monastery. That ascent began pretty much right underneath the flamme rouge, and it was Scarponi who attacked first, despite having fallen hard during that crash at the end of yesterday's stage.
The Italian looked strong as he attacked on the climb, where the gradient hit a leg-sapping 28 per cent, but it was Rodriguez who proved stronger as he powered past on the narrow streets on his way to what proved to be a convincing win.
Vuelta Stage 8 Result 1 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin Katusha 4h 49' 01'' 2 SCARPONI, Michele Lampre-ISD + 9'' 3 MOLLEMA, Bauke Rabobank + 10'' 4 VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen Omega Pharma-Lotto + 10'' 5 FUGLSANG, Jakob Leopard Trek + 12'' 6 ANTON, Igor Euskaltel-Euskadi + 15'' 7 ROCHE, Nicolas AG2R la Mondiale + 16'' 8 MENCHOV, Denis Geox TMC + 16'' 9 MARTIN, Daniel Garmin Cervelo + 16'' 10 KESSIAKOFF, Fredrik Astana + 16'' 11 ZUBELDIA, Haimar RadioShack + 20'' 12 MONFORT, Maxime Leopard Trek + 20'' 13 NIEVE, Mikel Euskaltel-Euskadi + 20'' 14 BRUSEGHIN, Marzio Movistar + 20'' 15 MORENO, Daniel Katusha + 20'' 16 BRAJKOVIC, Janez RadioShack + 23'' 17 POELS, Wouter Vacansoleil-DCM + 23'' 18 COBO, Juan José Geox-TMC + 23'' 19 WIGGINS, Bradley Team Sky + 25'' 20 FROOME, Christopher Team Sky + 25'' Vuelta Overall Standings after Stage 8 1 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin Katusha 32h 18' 16'' 2 MORENO, Daniel Katusha + 32'' 3 FUGLSANG, Jakob Leopard Trek + 34'' 4 NIBALI, Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale + 45'' 5 SCARPONI, Michele Lampre-ISD + 51'' 6 KESSIAKOFF, Fredrik Astana + 54'' 7 VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen Omega Pharma-Lotto + 56'' 8 CHAVANEL, Sylvain Quick Step + 1' 00'' 9 MOLLEMA, Bauke Rabobank + 1' 00'' 10 MONFORT, Maxime Leopard Trek + 1' 01''
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.