Vuelta a Espaņa - Sagan strikes again in Spain
Thu, 01 Sep 17:35:00 2011
Slovakian youngster Peter Sagan sprinted to his second win of the Vuelta with a convincing victory in stage 12 in Galicia, north-west Spain.
The 21-year-old Liquigas rider beat Germany's John Degenkolb (HTC) by a bike length in the bunch sprint at the end of the 167km stage from Ponteareas to Pontevedra.
Britain's Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) retained his leader's red jersey but splits in the peloton saw the 30-year-old lose one second to defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and five seconds to Sweden's Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana).
Wiggins still leads compatriot and team-mate Chris Froome by seven seconds in the general classification, but Kessiakoff rises to third, nine seconds down, while Nibali sits in fourth, 10 seconds off the summit.
Sagan's win, the tenth of his season, came just six days after the exciting talent picked up his maiden Vuelta victory in his first ever Grand Tour. And while his first win in stage six came in slightly surreal circumstances - when Sagan was one of four Liquigas riders to finish in the top five - there can be no debate about the quality of his second success.
Latching onto Bennati's wheel on the closing straight, Sagan proved too strong for his rivals despite not being able to profit from a lead-out train within his Liquigas team, whose primary target lies with Nibali's defence of his overall crown.
A break of three riders - Spaniards Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Jose Luis Roldan (Andalucia), and Australian Adam Hansen (Omega Pharma-Lotto) - formed after 13km before being joined by a fourth rider, Ukraine's Ruslan Pidgornyy (Vacansoleil).
The four escapees had built up a lead of almost nine minutes when they reached the first of two third-category climbs in the mid-section of what was otherwise a fairly flat stage.
Hansen was the first of the leaders to be dropped, the Australian fading fast after an initial attempt to break clear from his fellow escapees following the second intermediate sprint, 26km from the finish.
With the peloton now within two minutes of the leaders, Roldan threw in the towel to leave Mate and Pidgornyy alone with 10km left to ride.
Both riders were swept up under the 5km to go banner - and despite separate solo attempt to counter-attack by Mate's Cofidis team-mate Julien Fouchard and Vacansoleil's Santo Anza, it was business as usual for the teams of the race's main sprinters.
Absent from the final bunch sprint was German youngster Marcel Kittel, who was targeting a second win before his planned withdrawal from his debut Vuelta.
But the Skil Shimano sprinter had a mechanical problem inside the closing 10km, and despite his team being able to bring their man back onto the front, the 23-year-old was too tired to make any impact.
Sagan is the second rider to notch two stage wins in the 66th edition of the Vuelta following Joaquim Rodriguez's double in the first week of the race. The Katusha climber is Sagan's primary rival in the green points jersey competition, which he leads by just six points over the Slovakian.
The Vuelta continues on Friday with the hilly 158km stage 13 from Sarria to Ponferrada, which includes two first-category climbs and three third-category climbs before a flat finish.
Vuelta: Stage 12 finish