Stybar Breaks to Victory at Vuelta
Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) has won Stage 7 of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana. Stybar took a two-up sprint from world road race champion Philippe Gilbert (Team BMC Racing) to win the rolling, 205.9-km ride from Almendralejo to Mairena de Aljafare in 4:51:27. Robert Wagner (Belkin) won the sprint for third at 0:01. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) remains the red jersey.
The hostilities began early. After the peloton reeled in an earlier break, Marco Pinotti (BMC), Christian Knees (Sky), and Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) attacked at 11 km. The trio went unopposed and had forged a 7:12 lead at 55 km.
The peloton started chasing, and the gap narrowed. At 131 km, the lead was less than four minutes, and at 140 km, the bunch had shaved another minute off of the lead. With 50 km left, two and a half minutes separated bunch and break. Fifteen km later, the escapees led the field by 1:45.
The peloton accelerated, and the gap narrowed more quickly. With 17 km left, Pinotti dropped his companions, and the bunch reeled them in. Not long after that, Pinotti was caught.
RadioShack-Leopard took command and lifted the pace. With 11 km to go, Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) crashed and needed a new bike. Two teammates waited for him, but the Irishman finished 1:33 off the pace and went to a hospital after the stage. His status for Stage 8 is unknown. Not long before Martin’s mishap, his teammate Tyler Farrar punctured and lost his chance to contest the sprint.
With nine km to go, Gilbert attacked and took Stybar with him. The pair forged an eleven-second lead while GreenEdge attempted to reel them in.
Argos-Shimano fought its way to the front and paced the peloton. With five km left, the escapees’ advantage was down to 0:06. Narrower roads, however, made it possible for the fugitives to stretch their advantage to 0:12.
With just over two km left and the gap between bunch and break at 0:15, Sky went to the front. Stybar and Gilbert were still clear at the one-km banner, and riders began jumping out of the peloton in pursuit.
Stybar led out the sprint. With 100 m to go, Gilbert came off of the Czech’s wheel, but Stybar held him off. The race jury had to look at a photo to determine that Stybar had won.
Stybar said that Tony Martin’s 174-km break yesterday motivated the team today. "It was really beautiful for me and all of the team," Stybar said. "After yesterday, with Tony Martin fighting so hard, we were so proud of him. He gave all of us such big morale. We were really motivated for the stage because of him. After 100 km I told my sport director, 'Hey, if there is some attack on the last climb I am going to try and if not, we can go for the sprint for Gianni or Andy.’ I thought this was a good chance for me, but also a comfortable situation for the team because they wouldn't have to pull for the sprint. I also knew the last 10 km were really technical, which suited me and would be difficult for the group to catch a breakaway. It was really a perfect scenario. When I launched my sprint, I knew it was the place to go because I saw it the lap before. I couldn't really launch it perfectly because I felt the bunch coming back. It doesn't matter if I won by a centimeter or a millimeter. It's not every day you win against the world champion, so I am really happy. I want to dedicate the victory to the team, but especially Tony. Yesterday was really painful for him and for the team. Tonight, for sure, we will celebrate and share this victory all together."
In the overall, Nibali leads Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) by 0:03 and Nicolas Roche (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) by 0:08. Stage 8 will be a standing shaker. The 166.6-km ride from Jerez de la Frontera to Alto Penas Blancas will end with a Category 1 climb to the finish. The stage will be the first of three consecutive stages with mountaintop finishes. Look for the GC contenders to fight for the red jersey. Who will win the stage? Who will wear the red jersey tomorrow night? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out?