Andre Greipel confirmed his status as the Vuelta a Espana’s top sprinter with a classy third bunch sprint victory at Puertollano, and regained him the green jersey for good measure.
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On a great day for Columbia-HTC, Greipel’s win came just hours after team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen had taken his second straight stage of the Tour of Britain.
The German had no problem seeing off William Bonnet (Bouygues Telecom) and Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) in a chaotic bunch sprint in Puertollano, crossing the line over a bike length ahead.
Britain’s Roger Hammond was involved in a crash three kilometres from the line but could complete the stage, albeit 4-23 down.
“He went down when a Quick Step rider crashed in front of him,” Cervélo’s team manager Alex San Vega told Cycling Weekly.
“He hurt his hip when he fell, but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll see when we get to the hotel.”
Meanwhile Greipel crossed the line gesturing towards the sky and he explained later that his victory was dedicated to a friend who had died three years ago on the same day, as had his grandfather.
The German’s win, combined with two second places in hot spot sprints, puts him back in the lead of the points competition. However, he was cautious about his chances of leading it all the way to Madrid.
“[Race leader] Alejandro Valverde could take some wins in the mountains and that might affect things. We’ll have to take it on the day by day.”
“The important thing is I won today, it’s my third victory of the race, and I’ve stepped up a level here.”
Lone hero of the day was Andalucia-Cajasur’s Jesus Rosendo, who attacked after 10 kilometres and was only reeled in with eighteen to go. In total, he spent 142 kilometres off the front.
Valverde was simply glad to have got a dull five hour grind over the bleak plains of central Spain out of the way. “One day more, one day less,” he said when he crossed the line.
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage 16, Córdoba-Puertollano, 170.3km
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Columbia-HTC in 4-50-44
2. William Bonnet (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
3. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas
4. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Milram
5. Francisco Jose Pacheco (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo
6. Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis
7. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto
8. Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Ag2r
9. Matti Breschel (Den) Saxo Bank
10. Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi all same time.
Overall classification after stage 16
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
2. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 31sec
3. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-10
4. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 1-28
5. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 1-51
6. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 1-54
7. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 5-53
8. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Lampre at 6-34
9. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Slipstream at 8-28
10. Juan Jose Cobo (Spa) Fuji-Servetto at 10-45
Ireland’s Philip Deignan (right) and Daniel Martin
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Cycling Weekly’s Rider Profiles: Index
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage reports
Stage 15: Boom solos to win
Stage 14: Valverde suffers but strengthens lead
Stage 13: Unlucky Evans loses time on rivals
Stage 12: Hesjedal wins second stage for Garmin
Stage 11: Farrar takes first grand tour victory
Stage 10: Gerrans takes breakaway victory
Stage nine: Cesar wins as Valverde leads in la Vuelta
Stage eight: Cunego takes first mountain stage of 2009 Vuelta
Stage seven: Cancellara outpaces Millar in TT
Stage six: Bozic surprises sprint rivals to take win
Stage five: Greipel wins again and takes race lead
Stage four: Greipel wins after big crash wipes out bunch
Stage three: Henderson wins stage
Stage two: Ciolek takes first road stage, Hammond third
Stage one: Cancellara wins Vuelta opener
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Photos
Stage 16 photo gallery by Graham
Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson