Piepoli wins, Menchov now in gold

Climbers enjoy their day

Italian Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) won the 167.6 km ninth stage of the Tour of Spain Sunday between Huesca and the ski station of Cerler. Russia's Denis Menchov (Rabobank) came in second to take the general classification lead.

Menchov, winner of the Vuelta in 2005 after the disqualification of the Spaniard Roberto Heras for doping, was already well positioned Saturday,
finishing the individual time trial in fourth place and taking second overall,
30 seconds behind the Belgian Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel).

Devolder, not a good climber, lost nearly five minutes Sunday and gave up his golden jersey.

Spaniard Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), one of the favourites for the event, lost more time to Menchov, finishing fourth for the stage 17 seconds behind Piepoli.

Compatriot Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) withdrew before the
end of the ninth stage suffering from gastroenteritis. He was in 15th position.

"I'm devastated," said Pereiro, second in the 2006 Tour de France behind
American Floyd Landis, who tested positive for testosterone. "I suffered for three days, it wasn't worth continuing," he said.

Monday's stage 10, a climber's delight at 214km from Benasque to Andorra, has two category two climbs, one category one, and the final beyond category climb to the finish in Arcalís. The Arcalís covers 15 kilometres, with an average grade of 5.6 percent.

© AFP 2007

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