Saxo Bank-SunGard sprinter Juan Jose Haedo has said that today's Vuelta stage win in Haro, the first he has taken in a Grand Tour, "crowns his career," and says he will also target Sunday's finale to the three-week race in Madrid. The 30-year-old from Argentina was the beneficiary of a bit of luck today, however, something Daniele Bennati of Leopard Trek was sorely lacking.
The 30-year-old from Argentina was the beneficiary of a bit of luck today, however, something Daniele Bennati of Leopard Trek was sorely lacking. Bennati, who spent a day in the leader's jersey after finishing second to Team Sky's CJ Sutton on Stage 2, had appeared to be poised to take the stage after some great leadout work from his team mates ahead of the final few hundred metres.
However, a confusing road layout caused his leadout man, Robert Wagner, to seek the wrong way past a roundabout, at which point Haedo nipped past Bennati, crossing the line ahead of Alessandro Pettacchi of Lampre-ISD, with the Leopard Trek rider third.
“It was done," reflected Benati after the stage. "! I was going to win for sure but Wagner made a mistake going to the right. I knew that our way was to the left but his move forced me to brake. It’s a pity. Before that mistake, the team had done a perfect job leading me out for the sprint, especially Fabian Cancellara and Davide Viganò.”
Haedo acknowledged that the roundabout "caused some confusion because three riders went to the wrong direction," but added, "I came to the Vuelta for the win I got today."
Haedo, whose younger brother lucas Sebastian also rides for the Danish ProTeam, continued: "I’ve won stages at other important races like the Critérium du Dauphiné, Tirreno-Adriatico or the Tour of Catalunya, but this one is the most beautiful of them all and I enjoy it very much because I live in Spain, precisely in Gerona, for several months per a year."
While injury or tiredness has forced some big name sprinters out of the race, while others have departed early to prepare for the World Championships in Copenhagen later this month, Haedo is determined to see the three weeks through.
"This success is a gift for the sixteen days of suffering I experienced," he maintained. "I’ve done the right thing staying in the race.
"My goal was to win a stage in the Vuelta," he added. "That’s done. Now, coming out of this race in a good shape, I can hope for a top 10 or why not a top 5 at the World’s. But there’s another sprint finish in Madrid on Sunday. I can also win that one."
The peloton chases on Vuelta Stage 16 (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
While Team Sky's Chris Froome, second overall, took third place at the day's second intermediate sprint to gain two seconds on race leader Juan Jose Cobo, the Geox-TMC rider got both of those back by crossing the line slightly ahead of the British rider, and also gained five seconds on third placed Bradley Wiggins.
"It’s clear that we’ll keep fighting but we hope for numerous breakaways. We want breakaway riders to take the time bonuses," said Cobo after the stage, his first as race leader. "My first day with the red jersey has been an emotional one," he added. "Once we started racing, I didn’t feel nervous anymore. I’m proud to lead this Vuelta.
"Tomorrow I’m sure that a lot of people will come and cheer for me. Considering the number of fans I had at the Angliru, I expect a big support at Peña Cabarga as well. That’s in my region of Cantabria.”
Another man hoping for a good day tomorrow in a stage that features a comparatively short but nonetheless difficult climb to the finish is mountains classification winner David Moncoutié, who is looking to win that competition for the fourth year in a row.
David Moncoutié (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
"One way or the other, I still have to score points for the polka dot jersey and be careful of [AG2R rider Matteo] Montaguti. The jersey isn’t mine yet. Tomorrow I can wait for Peña Cabarga where I finished fourth last year.”
The Frenchman's compatriot and team mate at Cofidis, Julien Fouchard, has emerged as perhaps the serial escapee of this year's race, but felt that he could have had better companions today for a break he had planned the evening before.
Julien Fouchard on the break again (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
“Since Monday evening, I wanted to break away but I wasn’t on the right track with two riders from Andalucia-Caja Granada: one of them was not in great shape and the other one didn’t believe in our initiative," he claimed.
"They attacked me with 25km to go. It gives me some regrets but with the tail wind and the way we adjusted our speed to the one of the peloton, we haven’t spent much energy. Tomorrow, I’ll have some work protecting David Moncoutié and the following days, I’ll attack again.”
Finally, Katusha's Joaquin Rodriguez, who crashed heavily 15 kilometres from the end of today's stage and limped across the line more than 10 minutes after Haedo had ridden to victory, is expected to start tomorrow's stage.
Joan Horrach, one of three team mates to wait for the points classification winner and shepherd him home, said afterwards: "He’s got a bad injury on a shoulder and one of his arms is very painful. We hope that nothing is broken and that he’ll be all right tomorrow. He’s important for the spectacle.”
Katusha's team doctor Daniele Besnati later said that no fracture had been found and that the rider nicknamed 'Purito' should start Stage 17..
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.