Vuelta Stage 11: Farrar to the fore for first Grand Tour stage
But Bennati can't capitalise on Liquigas team-mates' hard work...

Image © Unipublic

Vuelta 2009 Stage 11: Murcia - Caravaca de la Cruz, 200KM

Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream held on to take a bunch sprint in Caravaca de la Cruz this afternoon, the American rider’s maiden stage victory in a Grand Tour after near-misses in the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France earlier this year.

But Liquigas, who forced the pace in keeping the day’s breakaway in check and led the peloton as the race shaped up for the final sprint, will be disappointed that their sprinter Daniele Bennati finished 13th.

It’s only the second time that the Vuelta has finished in the town, which is one of the most important sites in the Roman Catholic world – its 26,000 population is expected to be swelled by a million visitors when it celebrates a Jubilee year in 2010 – and last time the race came, another American, David Zabriskie, took the win.

Today’s breakaway once again featured serial escapees David Moncoutié of Cofidis and Vacansoleil’s Johnny Hoogerland, but the race came back together on the final descent despite a brave effort from Française Des Jeux’s Rémy Di Gregorio to get off the front.

A notable absentee from today’s start was Saxo Bank’s Frank Schleck. With brother Andy having already abandoned the race, and an opportunity to have planned knee surgery brought forward, Frank’s season is over and he misses the World Championships later this month.

The bunch sprint finish meant that there was little change in the general classification, although Alejandro Valverde, who comes from today’s start town of Murcia, seemed visibly delighted to receive his golden jersey from none other than Miguel Indurain.

Tomorrow sees the second and final rest day of the race, before three stages that could well prove decisive in determining the podium positions in Madrid.

Friday’s 174 kilometre stage takes the riders from Almeria to Alto de Velefique, with three Category 1 climbs – the Velefique, which is negotiated twice, with a summit finish second time around, with the Calar Alto sitting in between.

Saturday and Sunday also see extremely tough summit finishes, with both climbs getting harder beyond the halfway point. They’ll be hell to ride, but could make for some cracking armchair viewing.

Top 20 Stage 11

1) Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream)             05:11:10
2) Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto)         all at same time
3) Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil)                  
4) Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel-Euskadi)              
5) André Greipel (Columbia-HTC)          
6) Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC)          
7) Enrico Gasparotto (Lampre-NGC)          
8) Christian Knees (Milram)               
9) Óscar Freire (Rabobank)                 
10) Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step)            
11) Roger Hammond (Cervelo-TestTeam)       
12) Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto)           
13) Daniele Bennati (Liquigas)            
14) Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)  
15) Eduard Vorganov (Xacobeo Galicia)      
16) Kevin De Weert (Quick Step)            
17) Olivier Bonnaire (BBOX Bouygues Telecom) 
18) Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale) 
19) Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 
20) Karsten Kroon (Saxo Bank) 

Top 10 General Classification After Stage 11

1) Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)        45:37:51
2) Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto)                  00:00:07
3) Robert Gesink (Rabobank)                     00:00:36
4) Thomas Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream)         00:00:51
5) Ivan Basso (Liquigas)                        00:00:53
6) Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)           00:01:03
7) Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC)                  00:02:13
8) Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia)          00:02:24
9) Haimar Zubeldia (Astana)                     00:03:10
10) Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale)           00:03:13

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.