Rodriguez Wins Stage 18 of Vuelta
Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana) has won Stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana.
Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana) has won Stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana. Rodriguez took a two-up sprint from Ivan Parra (Cafes Baque) to win the mountainous, 196-km stage from Bejar to Avila in 5:02:59. Joan Horrach (Illes Balears) outsprinted Hernan Buenahora (Cafes Baque) for third at 0:19, and Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) remains the overall leader.
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At 31 km, 10 men escaped from the peloton. They were Rodriguez and Parra, Horrach, Jose Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Buenahora, Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), Patrick Calcagni (Vini Caldirola), Bram Tankirk (Quick Step), and Juan Fuentes (Saeco). The peloton did not chase, and the fugitives led the field by as much as seven minutes.
On the Category 2 Puerto de Navalmoral (174 km), Rodriguez and Parra dropped their companions. Rodriguez was obviously the stronger of the pair. The Comunidad Valenciana rider was so confident that he took a drink with 500 m left. Then, Rodriguez won the sprint easily.
Today, the heads of state battled for position. Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) attacked on the Category 1 Puerto de Serranillo and on the Category 2 Puerto de Navalmoral. On both occasions, the Liberty Seguros-led peloton rode him down. After the second capture of Mancebo, Perez countered, but the peloton, which had been reduced to about a dozen riders, caught him.
In the overall, Heras leads Perez by 1:13 and Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana) by 2:15. Stage 19 will be difficult, but it will probably not change the general classification. The 142-km ride from Avila to Collado Villalba will feature six categorized climbs, but the hardest of them, the Category 1 Alto de Abantos, is 60 km from the finish. Power riders or no-hope climbers might escape, but not the heads of state. Who will win the stage? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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