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Vuelta Stage 8: Joaquin Rodriguez rides into red jersey after powering up final climb

Steep ascent to San Lorenzo de El Escorial sees a big shake up in the GC

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''

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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