Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) dashed to his first stage victory in this Vuelta a España in an impressive gap in Thursday’s 12th stage from Andorra to Lleida.
Thanks to an excellent lead-out from teammate Matt Goss, Cavendish had such a huge gap coming out of a right-hander with 200 meters to go that he literally coasted across the line victorious. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) overcame a bad position in the last turn to snag second place while Goss crossed the line third with his arms held high in celebration.
“We won, we’re really happy today,” Cavendish said at the line. “(Lars) Bak got into the break, so we didn’t have to ride. Garmin and Quick Step made it harder for themselves, so that helped us. We’re happy.”
The victory marks the sweep of stage victories in all three grand tours for Cavendish and the 65th victory of his career. Cavendish also solidified his hold on the points jersey.
There were no major shakeups in the overall standings. Igor Antón enjoyed a relatively quiet day in the red leader’s jersey, finishing safely in the pack to retain his 45-second lead over Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas).
Early break out of Andorra
The 12th stage started high in the Andorra valley with cool, autumn-like temperatures, a nice break following the Africa-like heat that marked the first week of the Vuelta. With the second-category Coll de Boixols at 52km, a breakaway was sure to pull clear.
Riders from Xacobeo-Galicia led the way, with Gustavo Rodríguez and David García leading the charge. Catching the wheel were Lars Bak (HTC-Columbia), Antonio Piedra (Andalucia-CajaSur), Markus Eichler (Milram), Biel Kadri (Ag2r), Perrig Quemeneur (BBox) and Marco Marzano (Lampre).
The leaders opened up a five-minute gap before they started getting squeezed on both ends of the action: the sprinter teams, led by Quick Step and Garmin-Transitions, pressured from behind while strong headwind made for tough going.
Garmin-Transitions massed at the front to drive the pack in for the final sprint. Euskaltel-Euskadi also took over at the front to avoid echelons and to protect Antón’s jersey.
Another sprinter’s fiesta Friday
The 65th Vuelta continues Friday with the 196km 13th stage from Rincón de Soto to Burgos. The route features two minor climbs across Spain’s northern meseta and should see another bunch sprint.
Strong winds are always a threat, but the bunch typically arrives in Burgos en masse for a bunch sprint. This could be the last chance for some worlds-bound sprinters, who could start to abandon during what will be three very difficult mountain stages waiting in northern Spain from Saturday through Monday.
- 1. Mark Cavendish, HTC-Columbia, in 4h 00′ 30′
- 2. Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Transitions, at s.t.
- 3. Matthew Harley Goss, HTC-Columbia, at s.t.
- 4. Denis Galimzyanov, Team Katusha, at s.t.
- 5. Thor Hushovd, Cervélo TestTeam, at s.t.
- 1. Igor Anton, Euskaltel-Euskadi , in 51h 37′ 45′
- 2. Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas-Doimo, at 45
- 3. Xavier Tondo, Cervélo TestTeam, at 1:04
- 4. Joaquin Rodriguez, Team Katusha, at 1:17
- 5. Ezequiel Mosquera, Xacobeo Galicia, at 1:29