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Second-year pro Anthony Roux squeezed across the finish line in stage 17 of the Vuelta just a few seconds ahead of the peloton to claim an unexpected but well-deserved lone win.
The only survivor of a break of five, Roux (Francaise des Jeux) spent no less than 187 kilometres of the 193 kilometre run from Ciudad Real to Puertollano off the front.
The move had seemed condemned to failure, particularly when some of the five – Roux was one of the exceptions – started attacking close to the finish. This was not the most intelligent of ideas given the bunch was at less than 30 seconds!
Roux was one of the riders who protested the most at the others attacking, saying later “I understand that some riders don’t want to end up trying to win from a sprint. But when the bunch is that close it seems a bit stupid to me. We should have waited.”
Holland’s Martijn Maaskaant (Garmin-Slipstream) succeeded in going clear, and Roux finally followed him up the road, catching the Classics specialist with two kilometres to go.
A final short uphill put paid to the burly Dutchman, but Roux somehow found the strength to accelerate away and take Francaise des Jeux’s first stage win of a major Tour this season.
B-Box’s William Bonnet finished second, making it a French one-two, whilst Andre Greipel (Columbia-HTC) took third, strengthening his lead in the points competition.
Overall there was no change, but a big pile up in the first half of the stage saw second-placed Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and sixth-placed Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo-Galicia) both hit the deck.
Gesink suffered cuts and bruises down all of his left side, whilst Mosquera had a head injury and scraped his hip.
Both riders could continue, but as Mosquera’s sports director Alvaro Pino pointed out, the injuries could hardly have come at a worse time.
On Thursday the Vuelta heads back into the hills and the race favourites will have one of their last chances to dislodge Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) from the lead. If two of his key rivals are not feeling at 100 percent, that will make the Spaniard’s mission of holding onto the maillot amarillo a lot easier.
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage 17, Ciudad Real-Talavera de la Reina, 193.6km
1. Anthony Roux (Fra) Francaise des Jeux in 4-28-14
2. William Bonnet (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
3. Andre Greipel (Ger) Columbia-HTC
4. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas
5. Francisco Jose Pacheco Torres (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo
6. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto
7. Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Ag2r
8. Javier Benitez (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo
9. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Lampre
10. Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil all same time.
Overall classification after stage 17
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne in 74-27-48
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
Roux survives the clutches of the bunch to take the win
Robert Gesink suffered some nasty injuries in a crash during stage 17
Race leader Alejandro Valverde gets a shove
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Latest news and features
Freire set for retirement in 2010
Unlucky Horner crashes out of Vuelta
Wegelius abandons the Vuelta
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Who will win?
Vinokourov back with Astana for the Vuelta
Britain and Ireland well represented in Vuelta
2009 Vuelta route favours climbers
Cycling Weekly’s Rider Profiles: Index
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage reports
Stage 16: Greipel storms to third win
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 Watson
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