On an uncomfortably hot stage eight of the Vuelta a Espana, Leopold Konig (NetApp-Endura) made it two Czech wins in as many days with a well timed accent of the Alto de Penas Blancas, making up for his failed attempt to win stage two.
There was more success today for that day’s victor, Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff), whose third place was enough to see him move into first place on the general classification.
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For a little while it looked as though Igor Anton would claim Euskaltel’s first win of the race. The Spanish climber attacked with five kilometres from the summit finish and stretched his lead out to around 20 seconds.
A counter-attack, instigated by Konig and consisting of Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Daniel Moreno (Katusha), Bert de Clercq (Lotto-Belisol), Roche and Ivan Basso (Cannondale), formed ahead of the peloton, and, thanks to the pacing of the resurgent Italian veteran Basso, caught Anton before the finish.
Konig attacked in the final 500 metres and held off a rampaging Moreno by one second, with Roche finishing a further four seconds back. With Nibali struggling in the final few hundred metres, Roche inherits his red jersey, but today was far from a disaster for the Italian; he only lost a handful of seconds to his major rivals and remains as high as fourth in the GC.
It was generally a day of shadow boxing for the favourites not involved in the decisive counter attacks. No attacks were instigated among them until the threatening pair of Spanish climbers, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), accelerated at the finish line and gained a few seconds on the others.
Despite the lack of activity, Radioshack signalled their intent to challenge for the overall honours by setting the pace for most of the climb for their leader Chris Horner. Though they could not propel the 41-year-old to first overall, they did manage to drop potential threats Bauke Mollema (Belkin) and Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff), whose tired legs saw them lose several minutes each and fall out of contention.
Earlier, a breakaway of 14 riders rode at the front for most of the stage, before being whittled down to just three (Sky’s Dario Cataldo, BMC’s Dominik Nerz and Vacansoleil’s Valls Ferri) on the final climb, and ultimately all coming together with five kilometres to go.
NetApp tried to place their rider Bartosz Huzarski in the initial break, but, being less than a minute adrift on the GC, was signalled as too much of a threat and forced to retreat back into the bunch. Following the failure of this plan, NetApp will have been especially pleased to see Konig pull of the stage win.
Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp), Roche’s cousin, was a non-starter after taking a heavy fall on Friday’s stage seven.
Tomorrow sees the riders tackle another hilly route, but the climbs should be gentle enough for Irishman Roche to hold onto the red leader’s jersey.
Vuelta a Espana 2013, stage eight: Jerez de la Frontera to Alto Penas Blancas, 166.6km
1. Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura
2. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha at 1 sec
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Saxo-Tinkoff at 5 secs
4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 5 secs
5. Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale at 5 secs
6. Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 8 secs
7. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 13 secs
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 19 secs
9. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 19 secs
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky at 23 secs
Overall classification after stage eight
1. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Saxo-Tinkoff
2. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard at 17 secs
3. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha at 17 secs
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 18 secs
5. Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura at 29 secs
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack-Leopard at 30 secs
7. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 31 secs
8. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky at 42 secs
9. Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo-Tinkoff at 52 secs
10. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1-03
Leopold Konig gives NetApp its first Grand Tour stage win
Nicolas Roche in race lead
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