Italy’s Francesco Gavazzi Thursday won the 18th stage of the Vuelta a Espaa, as Spain’s Juan Jose Cobo kept the overall leadership ahead of Britain’s Chris Froome with just three stages left. The Lampre rider edged Belgium’s Kristof Vandewalle of Quickstep by one second at the end of the 174.6-kilometer ride from Solares to Noja, after the two broke away from a pack of 11 riders who had spent almost the entire race out in front.
Earlier, Portugal’s Sergio Paulinho of Radioshack, had attacked the leading group just 22 kilometres from the finish, but was caught with three kilometers to go. France’s Alexandre Geniez took third in the stage, by outpacing the rest of the breakaway pack, which at one point held a lead of 12 minutes over the peloton. Also among the group of 11 included Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez, who appeared to have recovered from a fall on Tuesday.
Cobo, of the Geox team, finished 18th and maintains his 13-second overall lead over Froome of Team Sky. Another Briton and Team Sky member, Bradley Wiggins, remains third, 1:41 seconds behing Cobo. All three finished with the same time. Spain’s Angel Madrazo became the fourth member of the Movistar team to withdraw from the race with gastroenteritis.
On Friday, the riders begin the first of two days in the Basque Country with the 19th stage, which takes them 158.8 kilometers on a mountainous route from Noja to Bilbao.
Vuelta a Espaa Stage 18
1. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-ISD 4:24:42
2. Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Quickstep @ s.t.
3. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Skil-Shimano@ .10
4. Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis @ s.t.
5. Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
6. Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Saxo Bank Sungard
7. Juan Jos Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
8. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
9. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana
10. Francis De Greef (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto @ .15
General Classification After Stage 18
1. Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC 74:04:05
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky @ .13
3. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky @ 1:41
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank @ 2:05
5. Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC @ 3:48
6. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek @ 4:13
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale @ 4:31
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto @ 4:45
9. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha @ 5:20
10. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 5:33