HARO, Spain (VN) — JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank) made history Tuesday by becoming the first Argentine to win a stage at a grand tour.
Haedo avoided confusion at a round-about within 500 meters of the finish that saw some riders go the wrong way and caused the bunch to fracture on the final charge to the line.
Haedo easily won ahead of Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), with Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) crossing the line third to take the flowers in the 203.6km 16th stage at the Vuelta a España.
“For me, to become the first Argentine to win a stage in one of the grand tours, this is a very special victory,” said Haedo. “There was some confusion in the final kilometer, but I came through in good position. It’s something I’ve been hunting for a long time, so to finally achieve it something special.”
Confusion at the final round-about caused some riders to turn the wrong way. There was a deviation, with the race going left and race vehicles going right, but some steered off course going the wrong way.
Riders in the heat of the action blamed a Leopard-Trek rider for taking the wrong way, forcing other riders to go with him to avoid crashing.
Provisional results saw second-place Chris Froome (Sky) losing two seconds and third-place Bradley Wiggins losing five seconds at the line. That could change once the official results are posted.
Juanjo Cobo (Geox-TMC) rode safely in the bunch and crossed the line 10th at two seconds back of Haedo’s winning time.
Cobo enjoyed his first full day in the red leader’s jersey as the Vuelta entered the final string of stages in the closing days of racing at the 2011 Vuelta.
“I felt well-protected by the team all day and we were careful about the day’s bonus sprints as well as avoiding trouble,” Cobo said. “It will be very special tomorrow heading into Cantabria and wearing the red jersey in front of my friends and family.”
A three-man breakaway tore away early in the rolling stage from Villa Romana La Olmeda to Haro, in the heart of Spain’s La Rioja wine country.
The gap grew to more than five minutes, but the sprinter teams came to the fore to trim down the difference.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), a winner of two stages and the leader of the points competition, got caught up in a spill in the closing 20km. It appeared he injured his left wrist. Early results showed Rodriguez was able to finish the stage to retain the jersey, but he could be questionable for tomorrow.
The victory is a breakthrough for Haedo, who’s been knocking around Europe since the 2007 season.
Though not as prolific as the likes of Mark Cavendish or André Greipel, Haedo has picked up a few big wins each season. This year, the Argentine took an important victory at Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
“This means a lot to Haedo because he’s really be working hard. He’s probably in the best form of his career and we’re happy for him that he had this chance to show it to the world,” said Saxo Bank sport director Tristan Hoffman. “He’s really progressed through the entire race and to win against guys like Petacchi and Bennati says a lot about how he’s evolved over the past few years.”
The 2011 Vuelta continues Wednesday with the 211km 17th stage from the Faustino V vineyards and ends atop the short but steep climb to Peña Cabarga.
The explosive uphill climb should suit stage-hunters like Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) and present the Sky tandem with a chance to attack Cobo’s red jersey.
Cobo, however, could easily widen his narrow margin if he has the same legs he did up the Angliru on Sunday.