Vuelta a España 2013 Stage 5
Sober - Lago de Sanabria 168.4km
With four race leaders in four days of tumultuous racing, the racers of this year's Vuelta needed an easier day. The 168.4km (105.3mi) road from Sober to Lago de Sanabria wasn't easy by any means, but it wasn't hard either, and depending on the peloton's disposition, the day could be a brutal leg grinder or a virtual day off for the top general classification riders.
The rollout offered no clues. There was a break from the gun, but it was absorbed. It took all of 11km (6.8mi) for the day's escape to break the grasp of the pack. It was led by Nicolas Edet of Cofidis, the most combative of yesterday's escapees. He dragged the fivesome away from their fellow racers. He was joined by his teammate Arnaud Courtreille, and followed by Winner Anacoma of Lampre-Merida, Jurgen Van De Walle of Lotto-Belisol, and Antonio Piedra of Caja Rural.
The three were led out to a gap of almost eleven minutes, as the Astana team of Vincenzo Nibali had little interest in bringing it back. Nor did the teams of his main rivals. But then the teams of the sprinters realized this was one of the few days to showcase their fast-twitch men, and the responsibility fell on them to bring back the break.
Garmin, in the service of Tyler Farrar, possibly the fastest guy at the Vuelta, started the chase with almost 100km (62.5mi) left. They got little help. When there was but 40km (25mi) remaining and still a five-minute gap to close, other sprinter's teams decided they needed to lend a hand in order to reel in the fast five. Orica-Greenedge joined, Argos-Shimano did, too.
Cannondale Pro Cycling, seeing the reluctance of the general classification teams to ride, chose to ride conservatively as well. They brought captain Ivan Basso to the front at the danger points on the course, and eased back when the danger had passed, resuming their energy-saving tactic of lurking close enough to the front to avoid splits and minimize the risk of crashes, but far enough back to save energy.
With ten kilometers (6.25mi) remaining and the field nearly a minute behind, the pack was getting nervous. So, too, was the break, and Courtreille attacked the group to ride off solo. Van de Walle decided to chase, while the others, exhausted, fell back. He eventually joined Courtreille.
Five kilometers left (2.5mi) and the duo still dangling out there, Omega Pharma-Quickstep sent their time trial world champion, Tony Martin, to the front. He drilled the pace for two kilometers (1.2mi) and finished off the break.
Now it was a free-for-all. Everyone knew there was a tight right-hand corner 600 meters (.375mi) from the finish. Positioning was going to be crucial. No sooner had Argos returned to the front did BMC's Philippe Gilbert, world road racing champion and a master of the late attack, scamper off the front.
Coming into the last turn, Argos had brought Gilbert back, and out of the turn the sprint began, with Orica's Michael Matthews winning from Lampre-Merida's Max Ariel. Farrar was fifth. Cannondale's Daniele Ratto, freed from domestique duties at the end, positioned himself well and finished ninth.
Tomorrow's stage, the sixth of the race, could well finish up as this one did. The southbound parcour, 177.3km from Guijuelo to Caceres is rolling, but mostly gently. The finish has a rise to it, but not one big enough to dislodge the sprinters. The sprinter's teams will want to control the stage, while the general classification men will try to save up energy for upcoming battles. For Cannondale Pro Cycling, Ratto, with his sterling effort today, could well get another green light from Basso when his team duties are completed for the stage.
Vuelta a España 2013
Stage 5: Sober to Lago de Sanabria
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 4:28:23
2. Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida same time
3. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step same time
4. Niklas Arndt (Ger) Argos-Shimano same time
5. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp same time
Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
9. Daniele Ratto (Ita) same time
25. Ivan Basso (Ita) same time
62. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) same time
65. Maciej Paterski (Pol) same time
81. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) same time
97. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 0:00:19
110. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:01:16
112. Guillaume Boivin (Can) same time
157. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) 0:03:35
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 18:43:52
2. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:03
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:08
4. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:16
5. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:21
General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling
27. Ivan Basso (Ita) 0:01:32
56. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 0:07:21
79. Maciej Paterski (Pol) 0:14:34
90. Daniele Ratto (Ita) 0:18:43
101. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:21:04
105. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 0:22:33
131. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:31:03
140. Guillaume Boivin (Can) 0:32:19
166. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) 0:39:36