Juan Jose Haedo of Saxo Bank has won Stage 16 of the Vuelta in Haro this afternoon in a bunch sprint from Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre-ISD and Leopard Trek's Daniele Bennati. The latter was apparently poised to take the win before his hopes were scuppered by a roundabout inside the final kilometre that send some riders, including his leadout man, the wrong way. Juan Jose Cobo of Geox-TMC retains the race leader's red jersey. Team Sky's Chris Froome remains second, and even got a couple of seconds back on the Spaniard in an intermediate sprint - but Cobo got those back at the finish, and gained five seconds on Bradley Wiggins.
The apparently confusing road layout and signage inside the final kilometre may well have cost Bennati victory today, and also ended the challenge of Peter Sagan, who is looking to close the gap on Jouquin Rodriguez, himself in trouble through a crash today, in the points classification.
Coming into the last kilometre, Bennati was perhaps in the best position of those challenging for the stage win, with Fabian Cancellara peeling off after putting in a big turn at the front of the peloton.
Approaching that final roundabout, which according to the road book, the riders needed to pass to the left, the Italian sprinter was on the wheel of Leopard Trek team mate Robert Wagner at the front and victory seemed there for taking.
Wagner went right, however, nearly taking out a steward, and while Bennati himself went left, he lost momentum and almost rode into the roundabout as a result of the surprise turn of events, subsequently shaking his head as he crossed the line as though he couldn't quite believe what had happened.
A number of other riders went the wrong way too, taking them out of contention for the sprint, while Sagan, who almost followed them, somehow managed to steer the other way and avoid the barriers to take the correct route, although he lost position on the road as a result.
It was the 30-year-old Haedo who profited from the confusion, not deviating from his line to pass Bennati as they rode round that fateful roundabout and holding off Petacchi to take the first Grand Tour stage win of his career.
The drama earlier on in the stage, which took the peloton through the Rioja vineyards today, had been confined to a couple of crashes, as well as the second intermediate sprint, only 10 kilometres from the finish.
With the day's breakaway, comprising Antonio Cabello and Jesus Rosendo of Andalucia-Caja Granada and Daniel Fochard of Cofidis caught shortly beforehand, there was an opportunity for some of the GC contenders to gain valuable bonus seconds.
As it turned out, Geox-TMC's David de la Fuente, working for Cobo, took the sprint to minimise the potential advantage to the race leader's rivals, but Froome managed to get third place on the sprint, and two bonus seconds. Cobo, however, would get those back on the finish line due to gaps in the peloton.
The most serious of today's crash had happened a few minutes earlier, around 15 kilometres from the finish as the peloton was poised to catch the three members of the break, and involved green jersey winner Rodriguez.
The Katusha rider remounted his bike but seemed to be in some discomfort afterwards, needing treatment from the race doctor, with two team mates dropping back to help nurse him to the finish, arriving more than 10 minutes after the bunch sprint, and it is unclear whether he will be able to continue in the race.
One rider whose race came to an end today was the Lampre-ISD rider Alessandro Spezialetti, seen nursing what appeared to be a broken collarbone as the race passed through a village some 55 kilometres from the finish.
The incident that led to the Italian rider’s injury, which was missed by the TV cameras, took place as the 36-year-old’s team, working on behalf of Alessandro Petacchi, set the pace at the front of the peloton.
Another rider whose participation in the Vuelta has ended today is Leopard Trek’s Fabian Cancellara, who leaves to prepare for the defence of his World Time Trial Championship in Copenhagen a fortnight tomorrow.
“This Vuelta has been really demanding,” said the Swiss rider, who in Geelong 12 months ago won an unprecedented fourth rainbow jersey in the discipline.
“Besides the time trial in Salamanca, I was dedicated to help Daniele Bennati in the sprints and Jakob [Fuglsang] and Maxime [Montfort], our duo for the GC, in the climbs”, he continued.
“In order to be fresh in Copenhagen, I need to take some rest now and then pick up training again.”
Cancellara added: “I think a reigning world champion should always defend his jersey” – although he himself did not do so in 2008, citing tiredness after winning Olympic gold at Beijing in 2008 – “so I’m going to try to win the time trial for the fifth time.
“I’m very pleased that the time trial is already on Wednesday, which allows for an extra day of recuperation in view of the road race on Sunday”, concludes Cancellara.
Sadly for Cancellara, the confusion caused by that roundabout inside the last kilometre meant that despite his own efforts on behalf of Bennati, he was unable to mark his departure from the race by celebrating a win for his team.
Vuelta Stage 16 Result 1 HAEDO, Juan Jose Saxo Bank-SunGard 4h 41' 56'' 2 PETACCHI, Alessandro Lampre-ISD Same time 3 BENNATI, Daniele Leopard Trek " 4 REYNES, Vicente Omega Pharma-Lotto " 5 HOWARD, Leigh HTC-Highroad + 2'' 6 DE KORT, Koen Skil-Shimano + 2'' 7 MONDORY, Lloyd AG2R La Mondiale + 2'' 8 MAES, Nikolas Quick Step + 2'' 9 SUTTON, Christopher Team Sky + 2'' 10 COBO, Juan José Geox-TMC + 2'' 11 ROCHE, Nicolas AG2R La Mondiale + 4'' 12 VAN AVERMAET, Greg BMC Racing + 4'' 13 FROOME, Christopher Team Sky + 4'' 14 NIBALI, Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale + 4'' 15 FUGLSANG, Jakob Leopard Trek + 4'' 16 LAGUTIN, Sergey Vacansoleil-DCM + 4'' 17 SIJMENS, Nico Cofidis + 4'' 18 MORENO, Daniel Katusha + 4'' 19 MOLLEMA, Bauke Rabobank + 7'' 20 MONFORT, Maxime Leopard Trek + 7'' Vuelta Overall Standings after Stage 16 1 COBO, Juan José Geox-TMC 64h 39' 14'' 2 FROOME, Christopher Team Sky + 20'' 3 WIGGINS, Bradley Team Sky + 51'' 4 MOLLEMA, Bauke Rabobank + 1' 41'' 5 MONFORT, Maxime Leopard Trek + 2' 40'' 6 MENCHOV, Denis Geox-TMC + 3' 06'' 7 FUGLSANG, Jakob Leopard Trek + 3' 08'' 8 NIBALI, Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale + 3' 49'' 9 VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen Omega Pharma-Lotto + 4' 03'' 10 POELS, Wouter Vacansoleil-DCM + 4' 18''
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.