Spain's David López (Caisse d'Epargne) won the Vuelta a España's most mountainous stage today in Alcoy, Spain, from an escape group. He attacked his last four companions with four kilometres to race to win solo.
Escape companion, Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud (OmegaPharma-Lotto) nearly caused an upset for the Vuelta a España's race leader, Igor Antón. Peraud gained just over six minutes on the main group of Antón and threatened to take the overall leader's red jersey.
Antón's Euskaltel-Euskadi chased in the final 20 kilometres to limit the damage and allow Antón to keep the lead. Peraud, who won a silver medal mountain biking at the Olympics, jumped to from 37th to fifth overall, and is now 52 seconds behind Antón.
Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) tried to break free from Antón in the last kilometre, but remains a fraction of a second behind.
López, Peraud and their fellow escapees had to work for the win. The day's stage contained seven categorised climbs from Calpe to Alcoy. Though none of the climbs topped 1100 metres, the combination of climbs and the heat, near 35°C, made for a demanding stage.
An escape of 15 men formed early into the 187.7-kilometre stage from Calpe to Alcoy, in southeast Spain. The main group of race leader Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was happy to see the group go, all except for Spaniard Carlos Barredo (Quick Step). Barredo eventually sat up and returned to the main group.
Frenchman David Moncoutié (Cofidis) made the escape group with two objectives: to win the stage and to gain points for a third consecutive win in the overall mountains competition.
He gained enough points to move ahead of leader Serafín Martínez (Xacobeo-Galicia). However, Martínez team-mate, Gonzalo Rabuñal led over most of the climbs to prevent Moncoutié from taking maximum points.
Rabuñal himself broke the unity of the escape group. After he climbed ahead up the Alto de Tudons with 55 kilometres to race to take the maximum mountain points, he continued solo.
Jelle Vanendert helped team-mate Jean-Christophe Peraud gain time and chased Rabuñal. However, four others dominated to battle for the stage win: López, Moncoutié, Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha), Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas-Doimo). After Rabuñal cracked, López went on a solo attack
López crossed the Fernando Reig bridge, sun shining down on his left, into town with 20 seconds on the three others. At one kilometre to go, within earshot of the Vuelta's announcer announcing his arrival, he had the win secured.
The win was only López's second win as a professional and his first since he won a stage of the 2007 Tour of Germany ahead of Jens Voigt and Robert Gesink. It was Caisse d'Epargne's first since Luis León Sánchez won the Clásica San Sebastián at the end of July.
López will have an extra day to enjoy his win because tomorrow is the first of two rest days. On Tuesday, the race will re-start in Tarragona.
Vuelta a Espana 2010, stage nine: Calpe to Alcoy, 187.7km
1. David Lopez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne in 5-20-51
2. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo at 6 secs
3. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha at 13 secs
4. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis at 21 secs
5. Blel Kadri (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 27 secs
6. Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 30 secs
7. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 55 secs
8. Gonzalo Rabunal (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 2-36
9. Oscar Pujol (Spa) Cervelo at 3-52
10. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 4-17
15. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 7-02
16. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 7-02
17. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 7-02
18. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at 7-02
19. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 7-02
27. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervelo at 7-02
127. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 19-32
134. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 26-08
Overall classification after stage nine
1. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi in 37-56-42
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at 2 secs
4. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervelo at 42 secs
5. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 52 secs
6. Ruben Plaza (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 1-15
7. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 1-18
8. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 1-19
9. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Caisse d'Epargne at 1-22
10. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Columbia at 1-26
13. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 1-47
135. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 1-16-59
169. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 1-35-04
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Related links
Stage eight: Moncoutie takes the win as Anton moves into lead
Sky soigneur on Vuelta dies of bacterial infection
Stage seven: Petacchi wins stage seven
Stage six: Hushovd demonstrates climbing skills on way to Vuelta win
Stage five: Farrar beats Cavendish for Vuelta stage win
Stage four: Anton wins stage but Gilbert keeps red jersey
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three: Gilbert attacks to win stage and take race lead
Stage two: Hutarovich beats Cavendish to Vuelta stage win
Vuelta stage one: Cavendish leads after HTC-Columbia win team time trial
The British riders to have led one of the grand tours
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
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