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Samuel Sanchez, the only non-Basque rider on the Euskaltel team, gave the squad in the unmissable orange kit their first stage win of this year's race thanks to an opportunistic piece of descending into Cuenca on Friday afternoon that carried him clear of the Vuelta's major contenders. Well known for his daredevil ability on descents, the Asturian rider gained enough of a gap to finish just clear of Thor Hushovd, with race leader Alejandro Valverde third, which gained him a useful eight bonus seconds.
Sanchez, 28, his team's outstanding rider over the past two seasons, swept clear of his nearest challengers on the drop from the Alto del Castillo into the beautiful Castilian city of Cuenca. "I learned to ride motorbikes before I got on a bike, and there are some people who think I'm mad," explained Sanchez of his fearless descending skills.
Earlier in the stage, Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Frdric Bessy (Cofidis), Lars Bak (CSC), Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) and I¤igo Landaluze (Euskaltel) spent a considerable part of another high-speed stage clear of the bunch. Landaluze won the sprint for a special prize honouring 1973 Tour de France winner Luis Oca¤a in the town of Priego, where he was born. The quintet were caught on the Castillo climb, just before Sanchez gave a demonstration of how the art of descending can be used to gave advantage.
The race returns to the Castillo climb in the mid-point of Saturday's 33.2km time trial around Cuenca, which should give further clues about the likely overall contenders. Discovery Channel's Janez Brajkovic, a former U23 TT world champion is well tipped for a good ride and could well put himself right back into overall contention.
Stage 13, Guadalajara-Cuenca
1 Samuel S nchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 180km in 4.03.43
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
4 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas
5 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
6 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas
7 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Lampre
8 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
9 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) CSC
10 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 53.42.21
2 Andrei Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana 0.35
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 0.52
4 Jos Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval 1.04
5 Vinokourov 1.46
6 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel 2.13
7 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel 2.36
8 Di Luca 2.39
9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 3.10
10 Marzoli 4.07
Sanchez notches first stage for EuskaltelClose
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