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Vuelta a Espa¤a Stage 18 Report

September 18, 2008
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Imanol Erviti (Caisse d’Epargne) won the 18th stage of the Vuelta a Espa¤a in a tight two-up sprint with Nicolas Roche (Credit Agricole), the son of Irish legend Stephen Roche. The pair were the fastest remaining riders of a move that formed after 50km of the 167.4km stage between Vallodolid and Las Rozas, just outside Madrid. David Herrero (Xacobeo-Galicia) was third, 1″ behind front duo after his late solo attack was brought back in the last 2km. 24 year old Erviti, from Pamplona, home of the Caisse d’Epargne team, took his third pro career win in a close sprint.

In contrast to recent stages, the early pace on Stage 18 was high and several early breakaway attempts by groups including Pippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) were pulled back. The quick pace meant that the peloton covered 49.4km in the first hour, much of which was into a headwind. At this point however a group of 18 riders broke clear, consisting of Karsten Kroon and I¤igo Cuesta (both CSC-SaxoBank), Renaud Dion (AG2R-La Mondiale), Jose Ruiz Sanchez (Andalucia-Cajasur), Joaquin Rodriguez, Imanol Erviti and Cente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d’Epargne), Cyril Lemoine and Nicolas Roche (Cr‚dit Agricole), Alan Perez and I¤igo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jelle Vanendert (Fran‡aise des Jeux), David Herrero (Xacobeo-Galicia), Enrico Franzoi (Liquigas), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), points leader Greg van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto), Andriy Grivko (Milram) and Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems).

With nearly all teams represented, and with Roche the best placed in the overall (17th place @ 19’31” behind Vuelta leader Alberto Contador (Astana), the peloton allowed them to escape. The escape worked well together, eventually building a lead of 8’33” before Gerolsteiner decided that Roche was threatening the 10th place of Oliver Zaugg and moved forward to reduce the lead. On the Cat.3 climb of Alto de los Leones, with just over 40km to go, Bettini put in the first dig, but this was quickly countered and then the breakaway began to split. Multiple moves went and went, but all were pulled back by the others until Herrera managed to force a gap with less than 5km to go. He was caught inside the final 2km by the trio of Erviti, Roche and Kiryienka and the four battled out for the win and Erviti took the biggest victory of his career. The remains of the breakaway drifted home in small groups and the peloton, with Vuelta leader Contador (Astana) and his main rivals came in 7’29’.

Thursday, September 18
Stage 18: Valladolid-Las Rozas / 167.4km
1. Imanol Erviti (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne / 3.53.17 (43.05 km/h)
2. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Cr‚dit Agricole
3. David Herrero (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia @ :01″
4. Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Tinkoff Credit Systems @ :05″
5. Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC-Saxo Bank @ :10″
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence-Lotto @ :13″
7. Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas
8. Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
9. Andry Grivko (Ukr) Team Milram
10. Jose Ruiz Sanchez (Spa) Andaluc’a – Cajasur @ :20″

63rd Vuelta a Espa¤a / General Classification after Stage 18:
1. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana / 73h54’38”
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana @ 1’17”
3. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC-Saxo Bank @ 3’41”
4. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia @ 4’35”
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank @ 5’49”
6. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne @ 6″
7. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne @ 6’11”
8. Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 8’56”
9. David Moncouti‚ (Fra) Cofidis – Le Cr‚dit par T‚l‚phone @ 9’32”
10. Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Gerolsteiner @ 10’01”

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