Spanish rider David Lopez of Caisse d'Epargne won the mountainous ninth stage of the Tour of Spain on Sunday while his compatriot Igor Anton retained the overall race leader's red jersey.
Lopez crossed the finish line on his own after breaking away from a small group of leaders with some five kilometres to go in the 187.7-km ride between Calpe to Alcoy in southeastern Spain.
He completed the stage, which included seven climbs, including one just seven kilometres from the finish line, in 5 hours, 20 minutes and 51 seconds, six seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Czech rider Roman Kreuziger.
"It is incredible, I fought for the victory with all my strength. More than need it, I believe we deserved it because we worked as a team," Lopez told reporters after completing his first stage victory at a major race.
"It is without a doubt the biggest victory of my career. It still has not sunk in because I am not used to victories," he added.
Anton of Euskaltel finished in 16th place but was first in the overall race standings, ahead of Spanish rider Joaquin Fernandez even though they share the same overall time thanks to his better performance in previous stages.
Italy's veteran specialist sprinter Alessandro Petacchi pulled out of the stage after about 50 kilometres due to the injuries he suffered in a fall involving a number of leading riders during the eighth stage on Saturday.
"I am in pieces. My arm is very sore, I slept badly and my morale is low. I don't know how far I could go in this stage," the Lampre rider told reporters before the start of Sunday's stage.
He won the seventh stage of the race on Friday, the 20th Tour of Spain stage win of his career.
The riders will have their first rest day on Monday since the 65th edition of the Tour of Spain got underway last Saturday with a team time trial through the streets of Seville.
The 21-stage race will resume on Tuesday with a 175.7-kilometre ride between Tarragona and Vilanova i la Geltru in northeastern Spain.
The Tour of Spain, the third of the big tours after the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, wraps up in Madrid on September 19.
© AFP 2010
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