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Vuelta á Espana: Bennati trumps Swift at the last

204 kilometres in intense heat and it all comes down to the final sprint.

Image: Israel L. Murillo/AP/Press Association Images

Result: ITALY’S DANIELE BENNATI of RadioShack won stage 18 of La Vuelta, a 204km race from Aguilard de Campoo to Valladolid.

The long flat stage made the tape accessible for some of the race’s more unfamiliar names. Bennati, who had been unable to get to the front of the pack in earlier crowded finishes, managed to cross the line ahead of Briton Ben Swift, of Sky team, and Australian Allan Davis of Orica-Greenedge.

Following yesterday’s monumental performance from Alberto Contador, there was little room for more drama today. The top three places are unchanged as the Spanish trio of Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez and Contador all remained within the peloton, 10 seconds behind the leader.

Here’s how it happened: As the race came down from the hillsides there was a refreshing willingness to break. The first riders attacked after just two minutes, but the quintet of Gustavo Cesar (Andalucia), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil-DCM), Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) and Brent Bookwalter (BMC) were hauled in with 20km remaining.

SaxoBank looked supremely confident of Contador’s position and so they shepherded the red jersey within the peloton throughout the day. Sky led the charge towards the finish line in the hope that Swift would claim the stage. However, with only metres remaining, Bennati capitalised on John DegenKolbe’s bad positioning and ate up the ground behind swift and narrowly beat him to the line.

Who’s wearing what jersey?

  • Red (general classification): Alberto Contador.
  • Green (points): Joaquim Rodriguez.
  • Blue dots (mountains): Simon Clarke
  • White (all-round): Joaquim Rodriguez

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How did Nico do? Nicolas Roche finished the day alongside SaxoBank and Contador, normally a good thing, but back in 46th place. Overall, he still occupies 12th.

What happens tomorrow? On Friday, the riders face a hilly, 178.4 km 19th stage from Penafiel to La Lastrilla. The 21-stage Tour of Spain wraps up Sunday in Madrid.

- Additional reporting AFP

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