After a slow start to the Tour of Spain, Oscar Freire hit the jackpot on stage 11 in the bunch sprint for the seventh Vuelta stage win of his career.
Freire?s victory could hardly have been more timely: it came just 24 hours before he makes a planned abandon of the Vuelta to make his final build-up for the World Championships in his home region of Cantabria.
It also came 24 hours after a stinging defeat in Zaragoza, where Credit Agricole veteran Sebastien Hinault fended off the fastmen for a surprise win. Freire finished fourth.
This time round there were no such errors: after sticking to Tom Boonen?s back wheel like a limpet, Freire charged past the Quick Step rider to take the win by half a wheel.
The Spanish 32-year-old explained afterwards that he had trained less during the summer months in order to peak a little later than last season.
At the same time, although he will be gunning for a record-breaking all time fourth victory in the World Championships this September, it should be remembered the Rabobank rider has already had a superb season.
Victorious in Ghent-Wevelgem in the spring and a stage of the Tour of Switzerland in June, Freire then became the first Spaniard ever to win the points competition in the Tour de France this July.
Overall, logically enough, there was no change, with Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) becoming the first rider to lead the 2008 Vuelta for more than two days. However, Freire has warned that Thursday?s hilly stage 12 could see some surprise attacks by the big favourites.
Spare a thought for Juan Antonio Lopez Gil, the Andalucia-Caja Sur breakaway specialist who was off the front yet again today despite suffering from bad toothache.
Lopez Gil has now been off the front in 2008 for a staggering 1, 290 kilometres with just one stage win as a reward – and that was in the Tour of Andalucia way back in February.
TOUR OF SPAIN 2008: STAGE 11 RESULTS
1. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
3. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank
4. Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
5. Loyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r
6. Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
7. Xavier Florencio (Spa) Bouygues Telecom
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence-Lotto
9. Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre
10. Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner all same time.
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 11
1. Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi in 41h 5min 45secs
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
Euskaltel head the bunch for leader Egoi Martinez
Oscar Freire wins stage 11
Olympic champ Samuel Sanchez with race leader Egoi Martinez
Astana manager Johan Bruyneel with Alberto Contador (r)
Photos by Graham Watson
|TOUR OF SPAIN 2008|
>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<
Stage 11: Freire wins stage
Stage 10: Hinault wins, Martinez retains lead
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