A superb drive up the right hand of the finishing straight gave French veteran Sebastien Hinault a surprising but well-deserved stage win in Zaragoza.
Calculating his charge in the bunch gallop which decided stage 10 down to the last millimetre, Hinault fended off the pure sprinters – led by Frenchman Lloyd Mondory (Ag2R) – by half a bike length.
The first bunch sprint since Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) won nearly a week ago in Puertollano seemed to be made for Tom Boonen.
Five Quick Step riders on the front of the bunch with two kilometres to go, with Boonen last in the string, briefly recalled the days when fastmen like Mario Cipollini or Alessandro Petacchi?s team-mates upped the speed so much it left their rivals with no options whatsoever.
But a couple of right-hand bends and a sudden acceleration by two Credit Agricole riders – one of them Hinault – seemed to derail the Quick Step train. Then a move by former Vuelta leader and late breakaway specialist Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) caused yet more confusion. Boonen was suddenly boxed in and that left the stage win up for grabs.
Hinault kept close to the front and close to the right-hand barriers, and far from letting the sprinters through, upped the pace in the last 200 metres.
His acceleration proved just enough to keep the fastmen at bay, and his victory could be one of the last for the Credit Agricole team before one of France?s oldest squads folds at the end of the year.
For the 34-year-old Hinault – no relation of Bernard Hinault, by the way, although also a Breton – the victory could hardly be more important. A pro since 1996, his biggest previous win was a stage of the Tour of Germany. In that stage, he pointed out afterwards, he’d also beaten Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Tom Boonen, fourth and fifth in Zaragoza.
The Frenchman was not given a start in the Tour this year in order to allow younger generations to have a chance to shine. But in the Vuelta, Hinault has proved that there is life in the old dog yet.
TOUR OF SPAIN 2008: STAGE 10 RESULTS
1. Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole 151.3km in 3h 22min 21secs
2. Loyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence-Lotto
4. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
5. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
6. Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
7. Alexandre Usov (Blr) Ag2r
8. Xavier Florencio (Spa) Bouygues Telecom
9. Nikita Eskov (Rus) Tinkoff
10. Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) CSC-Saxo Bank all at same time.
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 10
1. Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi in 36h 46min 17secs
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 11secs
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 32secs
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1min
5. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Astana at 1min 38secs
6. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 2min 10secs
7. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 2min 23secs
8. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 2min 32secs
9. Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) CSC-Saxo Bank at 2min 54secs
10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 3min 22secs
Egoi Martinez wears the race leader’s gold jersey
Sebastien Hinault takes stage 10
Egoi Martinez – still in the lead
Photos by Graham Watson
|TOUR OF SPAIN 2008|
Stage nine: Van Avermaet takes stage, Martinez new leader
Stage eight: Moncoutie triumphs in Vuelta’s second Pyrenean stage
Stage seven: Ballan takes surprise win in mountains
Stage six: Bettini wins, Chavanel leads
Stage five: time trial win for Leipheimer
Stage four: Bennati takes crash-strewn stage
Stage three: Boonen bounces back
Stage two: Valverde powers into lead
Stage one: Liquigas are surprise winners