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Katusha top winners on Vuelta Queen stage
Sep 9th, 12. Team Katusha were the victors in today's penultimate stage of the Vuelta Espana, the Queen stage, where they took the stage victory and assured themselves two overall jerseys.
The 170.7km stage with three Cat 1 climbs, a Cat 2 climb and the finish atop the 11.4km HC Bola del Mundo, was expected to be a defining day of this year's Vuelta.
Thanks to Alberto Contador's thrilling long attack a few days ago, the top of the leaderboard looked reasonably secure before the start of today's stage, but there were others prizes still to be earned.
As well as the stage win goal of many, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) were fighting for 2nd place overall, and for the Points and Combination jerseys.
After joining a stage long escape group of 19 riders, it was Katusha's Denis Menchov who took the win - solo.
The crucial moment of the stage happened in the first part of Bola del Mundo (average gradient 8.3%). From the break group, Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) was the first to attack, followed by Maxime Bouet (AG2R la Mondiale) and Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
Menchov and Richie Porte (Team Sky) joined the trio, then went on to impose an incredible pace which nobody could answer.
The duo stayed ahead together until 200m to go, that was when the Russian made his explosive rush and took the win 17sec over Porte and 42sec over De Weert.
"I'm very happy I won the Queen stage of this 'Vuelta', it was extremely hard but I felt very well today," said Menchov who feels he is not back to top condition after the Tour de France and Olympics.
While Menchov won the stage, in the main group Rodriguez also attacked up the final climb (which had ramps up to 23%!). Contador (Saxo Bank Tinkoff Bank) and Valverde were left behind.
Rodriguez, who had the leader's jersey for 13 stages and claimed three stage wins this tour, reached the finish 25sec before Valverde and 44sec before Contador. It was not enough to move him from 3rd to 2nd in the overall ranking, but his performance did secure the leadership in the Points and Allround classifications.
"I'm very happy about my shape today, unfortunately I didn't manage to take the second place in the General Classification," said Rodriguez.
"Anyway, my team's and my performance in this Vuelta were fantastic: four stage wins, we're about to win Points and Allround classification. And let's not forget the fifth place of Moreno in overall standings and the prestigious victory of Menchov in today's Bola del Mundo.
"Do I think that the strongest won the overall ranking? Yes I do, the classification never lies".
The Vuelta Espana has one more stage to run.
While the final stage of 115km into Madrid is important for the sprinters, it is a winner's procession for overall victor Alberto Contador.
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