Antequera to Valdepeñas de Jaén 163.7km


This  year's Vuelta has featured several classics-style finishes. Short finishing hills where the entire race comes down to the final few kilometers where the riders with the best punch can knock off a few seconds on their rivals. The 163.7km (101.7km) ninth stage, from Antequera to Valdepeñas de Jaén, might well have featured the zenith of this style of finish, with a one-kilometer (.625mi) rise tilting up to a 30% gradient in places. It's the kind of finish that favors BMC's Philippe Gilbert and the Katusha duo of Dani Moreno and Joaquim Rodriguez, but several other riders also have the characteristics to take this stage.

Cannondale Pro Cycling's Ivan Basso is not a punchy climber, but he's a powerful diesel and has shown that he can maintain a hard tempo that few can match. While this rise doesn't favor him, he certainly shouldn’t be counted out.

The previous 162.7km (101.1mi) were not designed to be a mere parade for the last corner. The undulating course threw in a category two climb just before the finish to make sure no one was taking it easy all day. And the early break, which started at the end of the neutral zone, had that perfect size of five riders, big enough to go all the way, but small enough not to wake the peloton too soon, was only given a six-minute leash. Katusha was the team making sure the escapees didn't go too far.

The break was pulled back just before the big climb of the day, the Alto de los Frailes. As this one-lane road snaked up the hillside, the attacks came from riders feeling good but not willing to bank it all on having the punch necessary in the final kilometer. Caja Rural's Amets Txurruka set out on his own, only to be caught and passed by RadioShack's Robert Kiserlovski, who in turn was passed by Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen. Boasson Hagen summited alone with a nineteen-second gap, probably not enough time to finish alone, but the die was cast.

On the descent, Boasson Hagen took up every inch of roadway as he sped down. Katusha matched him in the turns and exceeded him in the straights, and they wiped out his lead with less than two kilometers remaining.

Into the tight turn leading to the wall, Basso moved into second position. And exiting the turn, he took the lead. Riding a hard tempo he briefly gapped the pack, but they inched back and he kept the gas on, hoping that no one would come around.

Moreno, a local to Jaen, attacked around Basso, and headed for the finish alone. He took the victory by four seconds over Movistar's Alejandro Valverde. The victory extended Moreno's lead in the points standings and gave him the Red Jersey by one second. Basso, while losing fifteen seconds in the final 500 meters, still finished eleventh and moved up to eleventh on general classification.

Tomorrow's ride from Torredelcampo to Alto Hazallanas is 186.6km (115.kmi) and it will all come down to the final 36km (22.4mi). Two brutal climbs, with the second dishing out 18% grades, and finishing atop the Alto de Hazallanas, every contender, including Cannondale Pro Cycling's Ivan Basso will have to bring their "A" legs to race or their Vuelta campaign is over.

Stage 9: Antequera to Valdepeñas de Jaén 163.7km

Stage Results
1. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha    4:18:57  
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team  0:00:04  
3. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha       same time
4. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff    0:00:08  
5. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi  0:00:09 

Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
11. Ivan Basso (Ita)       0:00:15
35. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col)   0:00:53 
59. Daniele Ratto (Ita)         0:01:45 
60. Cameron Wurf (Aus)         same time  
63. Maciej Paterski (Pol)         same time
64. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita)     same time
125. Guillaume Boivin (Can)       0:11:41  
163. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg)      0:16:19
192. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita)      0:17:10

General Classification
1. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha    35:58:34  
2. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff    0:00:01  
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team    0:00:20  
4. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team  0:00:22  
5. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard   0:00:28 

General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling
11. Ivan Basso (Ita)        0:01:36 
45. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col)   0:15:49 
79. Cameron Wurf (Aus)       0:34:47 
88. Maciej Paterski (Pol)       0:39:59 
92. Daniele Ratto (Ita)       0:43:23 
114. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita)      0:55:43 
131. Guillaume Boivin (Can)       1:02:37 
134. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita)      1:03:43 
168. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg)      1:18:16