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Philippe Gilbert earns second Vuelta victory
Sep 8th, 12. Philippe Gilbert won his second stage of the Vuelta a España today as Alejandro Valderde and Joaquim Rodriguez gapped tour leader Alberto Contador.
Gilbert (BMC), the former Belgian national road and time trial champion charged up the finishing straight and held off Valverde (Movistar Team) and Katusha pair Daniel Moreno and Rodriguez.
The 178.4km Stage 19 did not have any categorised climbs, but the uphill sprint played to Gilbert's strengths.
"I like this kind of finish with a long little climb," said Gilbert who praised his teammates for their support and good positioning throughout the day.
When the peloton split on a technical descent with 15km to go, GIlbert was safely in the front half with three teammates for support. Alessandro Ballan then helped close a gap to a breakaway of four with the final kilometre in sight.
"When I have a teammate like Ballan – a world champion and a winner of Flanders – I have a lot of respect for him. When I saw the work he did for me, I said to myself, 'I cannot lose'," said Gilbert.
In the General Classification fight, Valverde (2nd overall) and Rodriguez (3rd overall) fought throughout the stage and at the finish for time bonuses as they battle for the overall podium positions.
"Today a war happened in order to take bonifications, but Valverde is much faster than me in sprints so I knew it would have been hard," said former tour leader Rodriguez who sits 3rd on GC behind Contador and Valverde.
"In the intermediate sprint I managed to stay behind him and I minimised damage, but unfortunately in the last sprint I didn't have enough energy [to pass teammate Moreno].
"But unfortunately, as I said before, my legs were not at their top and I couldn't make an explosive rush."
Tomorrow's penultimate stage - with its 11.4km HC climb to the Bola del Mundo finish line (ramps up to 23%) - looks to be the last chance for the riders to gain time on each other before the Madrid conclusion of the 21 stage Grand Tour.
"The final part will be very hard, so I hope to gain some seconds in order to take second place in the General Classification. I know it's hard, but I'll do my best," said Rodriguez.
Contador, who finished 11th +3sec but who lost 17sec in total due to his rivals' time bonuses, remains clearly in the lead with a 1m35s gap to Valverde and 2m21s to Rodriguez. Chris Froome (Team Sky) remains in 4th place but is almost 10min behind.
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