Nicolas Roche holds on to second place overall in Vuelta
Philippe Gilbert clocks up first stage victory since becoming world road race champion
Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 12th stage of the Vuelta in Tarragona yesterday. Photograph: AP.
Nicolas Roche held onto his second place overall in the Vuelta a España, rolling in as part of a main bunch which sprinted it out for the stage win in Tarragona.
Roche placed 34th, alongside fellow general classification contenders Alejando Valverde (Movistar) and race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), on what was a day of transition between Wednesday’s time trial and Saturday’s key mountain finish.
Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) clocked up his first victory since becoming world road race champion last September, ending a long and stressful drought when he overtook the Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) in the last 50 metres. Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Lampre-Merida) was third.
“I have only one word: finally,” said Gilbert. “I’ve trained so hard this year but I’ve remained frustrated by not winning until today.”
“Also there was a lot of pressure with the world championships so soon, so the situation was getting intense.
“Everybody wanted me to win, they wanted to see that first time finally arrive, so you can say it was a very great moment to be able to get that victory,” added the 31-year-old.
“This victory will really increase the pressure on me for the world championships (in Florence, Italy, on September 29th) and on a course like that a lot of people will say I can win again,” the BMC rider reflected. “But I don’t see why I should be the only favourite, I could name 10 other riders who might win.”
For Roche, the day was one to avoid crashes and punctures. He also had the aim of saving as much energy as possible and to thus put something back in the tank after an impressive sixth place in Wednesday’s time trial.
However, he also picked up a two second time bonus by placing second in an intermediate sprint. That reduced his deficit to Nibali to 31 seconds, and increased his advantage over Valverde and Chris Horner (RadioShack Leopard) to 15 seconds.
“I thought it would be a quiet day but the wind obliged us to stay very attentive during the whole stage,” said Roche. “It’s not been a rest day but I’m okay. Yesterday evening, after the time trial I was exhausted. The daily ceremony takes energy from me every day. I must be careful.”
The race continues today with a lumpy 169 kilometre stage from Valls to Castelldefels. It features the steep first category climb of Rat Penat, but 50 kilometres remain after the summit and should allow for a partial regrouping.
In other news, former athletics star Sonia O’Sullivan is amongst the 105 riders confirmed as taking part in next week’s An Post Rás na mBan, a big international stage race for women.
The event is based in Ennis, Co Clare, and will feature three current and two recent elite national champions.
It starts next Wednesday, September 11th, in Ennis and runs until the following Sunday the 15th.