The seventh stage of the Vuelta a Espana again favored the sprinters over the 187.1 km (116.2 m) route from Murcia to Orihuela except for the steep Category 3 climb two-thirds into the course. But the main sprinters’ groups managed to stay together over the climb and all the sprinting favorites would make a push for the win.
During the race yet another four-man breakaway attacked early on, was over 10 minutes ahead at one point but was swallowed up during the last 5 kilometers.
With 1 km to go the Dish’s HTC-Columbia team and Petacchi’s Lampre boys jockeyed for the best position to allow their leaders to spring out to make the win. The blue and pink of Lampre managed to set up the Italian nicely and he zipped out with 200 meters to go to win his first stage. The Manxman tried to follow but in the end took second place in another non-winning stage for the Brit.
The overall category lineup didn’t change much and Belgian Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto will wear the camiseta roja for the fifth day.
– Petacchi – the 2010 Tour de France’s best sprinter winner – is involved in an ongoing doping investigation with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and depending on the investigation’s outcome could be suspended from racing and if so then could be pulled from the Vuelta by Monday or Tuesday according to Cycling Weekly.
– Saxo Bank’s Frank Schleck moved up to 7th from 8th in the overall classification,
still with a 50 second deficit. He replaced Cervelo Test Team’s Xavier Tondo who fell to 13th, behind 1’07”.
– Spanish time trial champion Luis-Leon Sanchez of Caisse d’Epargne was born in Mula in the Murcia region.
– Juan Antonio Flecha of Team Sky – who has been plagued by viral illness – is the third of the team to abandon the race. Team Sky masseur Txema Gonzalez died from the viral illness in a Seville hospital where he’s been since the start of the Vuelta according to LaVuelta.com.
Saturday’s Stage 8 will head into the mountains over 190 km (118 m) from Villena in a semi-circular route ending at Xorret del Catí. This is the first real mountain climbing stage with one Category 3 climb near the front, three Category 2s wedged in the middle and one Category 1 climb near the end.
Stage 8 predictions:
– GC contenders will put the pressure on Gilbert and most likely he’ll be out of the camiseta roja at the end of the day.
– LL Sanchez might go for the stage win to make up time since he’s behind 1’24” in the GC and also show that he wants the overall win.
1) PETACCHI, Alessandro – Lampre-Farnese Vini: 4:36:12
2) CAVENDISH, Mark – HTC-Columbia
3) HAEDO, Juan Jose – Saxo Bank
4) STAUFF, Andreas – Quickstep
5) FARRAR, Tyler – Garmin-Transitions
1) GILBERT, Philippe – Omega Pharma-Lotto: 27:12:38
2) ANTON, Igor – Euskaltel-Euskadi: + 10″
3) RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin – Katusha: + 10″
4) NIBALI, Vincenzo – Liquigas: + 12″
5) VELITS, Peter – HTC-Columbia: + 16″