Alessandro Ballan of Lampre won Saturday’s seventh stage of the Vuelta a Espa¤a, a 223.2 km ride from Barbastro to La Rabassa in Andorra. By winning the stage Ballan also took the overall lead as the peloton moved into the mountains. Riders had to negotiate not just the climbs but also the unseasonably inclement weather as rain fell persistently amid the foggy and cold conditions.
“It’s the first time that I have led in a major race,” said Ballan. “I dedicate this win to my daughter who was born last month.” Alberto Contador, one of the favorites, snatched back a few seconds back from rival Carlos Sastre, and almost a minute on Alejandro Valverde. American Levi Leipheimer rode well to finish fifth on the stage and maintain his second place overall.
Sylvain Chavanel, the leader going into the stage, struggled and finished more than three minutes off the pace. Just as in the Tour de France, Valverde suffered in the mountains and lost almost a minute on Contador who is now fourth overall 1-minute 34-seconds off the pace of Ballan. “I am very happy with the result,” said Contador. “It was pretty tough out there so we had to make sure we ate and drank a lot.”
Sastre, who lost 13 seconds on Contador, and is now sixth overall, said: “It was the first day in the mountains and I had some doubts. But I have to be positive. I lost some important seconds but nothing crucial. It was a very difficult day with a big drop in temperature and the rain which stayed with us for all of the stage.”
63rd Vuelta a Espa¤a
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Stage 7 Barbastro – La Rabassa / 223.3km
1. Alessandro Ballan (ITA) 6hr 15min 51sec
2. Ezequiel Mosquera (ESP) at 2:42
3. Alberto Contador (ESP) at 2:45
4. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP) at 2:50
5. Levi Leipheimer (USA) s.t.
1. Alessandro Ballan (ITA) 23hr 53min 26sec
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) at 1:00
3. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) at 1:21
4. Alberto Contador (ESP) at 1:34,
5. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) at 2:06,