Italian Damiano Cunego claimed his second mountains victory of this year’s Vuelta a Espa¤a when he stamped his climbing prowess over the rain-hit 14th stage held over 157km from Grenada to La Pandera Sunday. Spanish race leader Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d’Epargne had to fight to keep the gold jersey but emerged defiant after resisting attacks from Samuel Sanchez, Ezequiel Mosquera, Cadel Evans and Robert Gesink on the final day in the high mountains.
As the battle for final race glory went on in his wake, Cunego, Lampre’s diminutive but explosive climber, defied the rainy conditions to produce a series of stinging attacks which put paid to his stage rivals’ victory hopes. The former Giro d’Italia champion has already given up on challenging for the overall race lead but showed his class by soloing over the finish line at the 1840 meter high Sierra de la Pandera summit. “I have won two extraordinary stages, it’s great for my confidence,” said Cunego.
It was Cunego’s second victory in this year’s race after also winning stage eight, the first day in the high mountains at Alto de Aitana. Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang of the Saxo Bank team finished second on the stage at 2:23 while Sanchez, of the Euskaltel team, was over three minutes off the pace to take third place in the overall standings. Dutch rider Gesink is 31-seconds behind Valverde with Sanchez standing 1:10 off the lead with Italy’s Ivan Basso, of Liquigas, in fourth, at 1:28 and Australia’s Cadel Evans, of the Silence team, in fifth, at 1:51.
“It was a difficult stage until the end,” said Valverde who was fifth on the day. “I stayed calm because I knew I could get back (to the leaders). I knew also that they were at the limit.” With the world championships just around the corner (Sept 23-27), Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara of the Saxo Bank team joined Tom Boonen and Oscar Freire in pulling out of the Vuelta a Espa¤a.
Vuelta a Espa¤a Stage 12, 179.3km
1. Damiano Cunego (Ita/Lampre-NGC) 4:04:23
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Saxo Bank) @ 02:23
3. Samuel S nchez (Spa/Euskaltel-Euskadi) @ 3:08
4. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa/Xacobeo Galicia) @ 3:10
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Caisse d’Epargne) @ 3:22
6. Robert Gesink (Ned/Rabobank) @ 3:26
7. Cadel Evans (Aus/Silence-Lotto) @ 3:40
8. Gonzalo Rabu¤al (Spa/Xacobeo Galicia) @ 3:46
9. Ivan Basso (Ita/Liquigas) @ 3:48
10. Juan Jos Cobo (Spa/Fuji-Servetto) @ s.t.
Overall Classification After Stage 12
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Caisse d’Epargne) 60:30:53
2. Robert Gesink (Ned/Rabobank) @ .31
3. Samuel S nchez (Spa/Euskaltel-Euskadi) @ 1:10
4. Ivan Basso (Ita/Liquigas) @ 1:28
5. Cadel Evans (Aus/Silence-Lotto) @ 1:51
6. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa/Xacobeo Galicia) @ 1:54
7. Joaqu’m Rodr’guez (Spa/Caisse d’Epargne) @ 5:53
8. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita/Lampre-NGC) @ 6:24
9. Tom Danielson (USA/Garmin-Slipstream) @ 8:28
10.Juan Jos Cobo (Spa/Fuji-Servetto) @ 10:45