Italy’s Alessandro de Marchi sprinted home alone to win the seventh stage of the Tour of Spain on Friday as Spaniard Alejandro Valverde held the race lead.
Cannondale’s de Marchi, 28, shook off his three breakaway rivals with 15km to go, holding off all their attempts to catch him after the mountainous 169km ride from Alhendin to Alcaudete.
Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin finished second, despite crashing near the finish, ahead of France’s Hubert Dupont of the Ag2r-La Mondiale team.
De Marchi was elated having tried several times in vain to win a stage during last month’s Tour de France.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment,” the Italian told Spanish television station TVE.
“Today I managed to find the opening and I had a bit of luck. I came to this Vuelta without pressure, taking it day by day.”
On what was supposed to be a transitional stage ahead of Sunday’s first big mountain challenge, there were some worrying moments, most notably when last year’s Tour winner Chris Froome went down early on.
Although the British Team Sky leader seemed to hurt his leg, the peloton sat up for him and he easily rejoined the pack.
And he even took back a couple of seconds on Valverde in the sprint finish as he came home seventh.
He remains fourth although now just 20sec behind the Spanish Movistar rider.
Colombian Giro d’Italia champion Nairo Quintana, Valverde’s teammate and overall favourite, is second at 15sec with two-time former Vuelta winner Alberto Contador third at 18sec.
Young French climber Warren Barguil, thought by many as a potential future Tour champion, was another to hit the deck.
However, as the 22-year-old Giant-Shimano leader’s crash came in the final few kilometers, he was not penalized by any time loss and stays ninth at just over a minute.
Saturday’s 207km flat stage from Baeza to Albacete is one for the sprinters.
LA ZUBIA, Spain, Aug 29, 2014 – Tour of Spain results and standings after Friday’s seventh stage, a 169.0km ride from Alhendín to Alcaudete on Friday:
1. Alessandro De Marchi (ITA/CAN) 4hr 01min 52sec, 2. Ryder Hesjedal
(CAN/GRM) at 1:34, 3. Hubert Dupont (FRA/ALM) 1:35, 4. Johann Tschopp
(SUI/IAM) same time, 5. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC) 2:17, 6. Daniel Martin
(IRL/GRM) s.t., 7. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 2:18, 8. Gianluca Brambilla
(ITA/OPQ) 2:20, 9. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) s.t., 10. Alberto Contador
(ESP/TIN) s.t., 11. Robert Gesink (NED/BKN) s.t., 12. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV)
s.t., 13. Damiano Caruso (ITA/CAN) s.t., 14. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) s.t.,
15. Michael Matthews (AUS/ORI) s.t., 16. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) s.t., 17. Sergio
Pardilla (ESP/MTN) s.t., 18. Pieter Serry (BEL/OPQ) s.t., 19. David Arroyo
(ESP/CJR) s.t., 20. Lloyd Mondory (FRA/ALM) s.t.
1. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 26hr 52min 20sec, 2. Nairo Quintana
(COL/MOV) at 0:15, 3. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 0:18, 4. Chris Froome
(GBR/SKY) 0:20, 5. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) 0:41, 6. Joaquin Rodriguez
(ESP/KAT) 0:45, 7. Robert Gesink (NED/BKN) 0:55, 8. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 0:58,
9. Warren Barguil (FRA/GIA) 1:02, 10. Wilco Kelderman (NED/BKN) 1:06, 11.
Mikel Nieve (ESP/SKY) 1:09, 12. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/BMC) 1:11, 13. Damiano
Caruso (ITA/CAN) 1:12, 14. Rigoberto Uran (COL/OPQ) 1:18, 15. Sergio Pardilla
(ESP/MTN) 1:19, 16. Daniel Navarro (ESP/COF) 1:26, 17. Daniel Martin (IRL/GRM)
1:34, 18. Mikel Landa (ESP/AST) 1:47, 19. Winner Anacona (COL/LAM) 1:57, 20.
Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) 2:06.