Andy Schleck abandons, Vino dropped, as GC race hots up

Image © Unipublic

Vuelta 2009 Stage 8: Alzira - Alto de Aitana, 203KM

Lampre NGC’s Damiano Cunego took the eighth stage of the Vuelta from David Moncoutié of Cofidis with an attack on the closing two kilometres of the Aitana climb after a long day in the saddle.

But Cadel Evans will also be celebrating after the Australian Silence-Lotto rider, who had a hugely disappointing Tour de France, finished fourth to clinch the race leader’s golden jersey on this year’s first mountain stage.

Cunego, winner of the 2004 Giro d’Italia, went off the front of a group that contained several of the general classification contenders before overhauling the two riders ahead of him on the stage, the visibly tiring Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil, who finished the stage in 13th place, then Moncoutié, on the mist-shrouded roads leading to the finish.

Robert Gesink of Rabobank took third place on the stage, but in terms of the general classification, the real action was taking place behind him as Evans outsprinted Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d’Epargne and Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez to the line to seal a vital time bonus that puts him two and eight seconds respectively ahead of the Spaniards in terms of the overall race lead.

After a first week’s racing that favoured the sprinters, bookended by individual time trial wins for Fabien Cancellara in Assen and Valencia that resulted in the Swiss Saxo Bank rider wearing the golden jersey at today’s start in Alzira, the Vuelta’s first mountain stage secured some notable scalps among the pre-race favourites.

Andy Schleck, runner-up on the Tour de France podium in Paris, who had a disappointing time trial yesterday, abandoned 88 kilometres into today’s stage due to stomach cramps. Brother Franck, meanwhile, lost almost 11 minutes to Evans.
With Cancellara losing the race lead, it was a bad day all round for Saxo Bank.

The Swiss rider now lies in 95th position overall, some 24 minutes behind Evans, and his thoughts, like those of many of today’s strugglers, will be likely to turn to the forthcoming World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland later this month.

As for Alexandre Vinokourov, back in his first race since his return from a two-year suspension for doping, the Astana rider blew up on the last climb of the stage, the 6.5 kilometre Aitana ,which tested the field with a gradient of almost one in ten leading to the summit finish, and he now lies nearly nine minutes off the top of the general classification.

Tomorrow sees another tough day in the mountains, with a 189-kilometre stage from Alcoy to Xorret del Catí ending in a three-kilometre final climb that sees the gradient hit a soul-destroying 20 per cent in places before a one-kilometre descent to the finish.

Top 10 General Classification after Stage 8

1) Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC)           06:04:54
2) David Moncoutié (Cofidis)             00:00:33
3) Robert Gesink (Rabobank)              00:00:36
4) Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto)           00:00:44
5) Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) 00:00:44
6) Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)    00:00:44
7) Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale)     00:00:50
8) Ivan Basso (Liquigas)                 00:00:50
9) Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia)   00:00:50
10) Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) 00:00:50
11) Thomas Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) 00:00:50
12) Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre-NGC)         00:00:50
13) Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil)      00:01:10
14) Daniel Martin (Garmin-Slipstream)    00:01:29
15) Daniel Navarro (Astana)              00:01:32
16) Juan José Cobo (Fuji-Servetto)       00:01:33
17) Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas)           00:01:50
18) Haimar Zubeldia (Astana)             00:01:50
19) Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil)         00:01:50
20) Amaël Moinard (Cofidis)              00:01:50

Top 10 General Classification after Stage 8

1) Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto)           31:05:02
2) Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) 00:00:02
3) Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)    00:00:08
4) Thomas Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream)  00:00:13
5) Robert Gesink (Rabobank)              00:00:29
6) Ivan Basso (Liquigas)                 00:00:46
7) Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC)           00:01:26
8) Haimar Zubeldia (Astana)              00:01:37
9) Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia)   00:01:46
10) Juan José Cobo (Fuji-Servetto)       00:02:03


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.