Daniele Bennati Sprints to Vuelta Stage Victory in Valladolid
Today's stage was a fast one dominated by a strong tail wind. Shortly after the start of the stage “the Andalucian lynx” Luis Mate (Cofidis), Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) broke away from the peloton. They were rejoined at km 9 by Gustavo Cesar Veloso (Andalucia) and Team BMC Racing's Brent Bookwalter.
The five-man group managed to stay away until 16 km to go after obtaining their biggest advantage at kilometer 51 where they were 05:14 ahead of the chasing peloton.
At kilometer 172, Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan), Nairo Quintana (Team Movistar), Davide Cimolai (Lampre-ISD) and Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ-BigMat) were involved in a crash, which later caused Gerdemann to abandon the Vuelta.
Hoping to set up the sprint for Ben Swift, Team Sky was the most active team in the struggle to bring back the escapees, but also received help from other teams including GreenEdge and Team RadioShack-Nissan. Lloyd Mondory (Ag2R-La Mondiale) opened the sprint to the finish line early with 250 meters to go. Swift appeared to be in the best position to secure the stage victory, but 32-year-old experienced Bennati proved himself faster than the competition.
When asked to describe how he experienced today's sprint to the finish line Bennati said "It was such a fast last kilometer. It was a calculated sprint. I was on the wheel of Swift and at 200 meters he went full gas and I came around him for the win."
Bennati dedicated his stage victory to his grandfather and to former teammate Wouter Weylandt who died in an accident on May 9 last year.
"I am really tired but very happy. This was hard work but it’s a special day. Four years ago Wouter won on this finish line and for sure today he was with me. He was a good friend and good teammate and today I felt he gave me extra strength to win. I also thought of my grandfather who passed away during a training camp last winter. I dedicate this win to both of them."
Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank's Alberto Contador comfortably retained the red race leader jersey, leading the Vuelta ahead of Team Movistar's Alejandro Valverde.
The 21-stage 2012 Vuelta a Espana concludes on September 9 in the Spanish capital Madrid.
Watch video highlights from all stages of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana in our videos section (U.S. only - due to geo broadcast rights restrictions).