Vuelta 11: Reward for lone ranger

David Zabriskie takes a long and very lonely road to the stage win, while Alejandro Valverde suffers

David Zabriskie takes a long and very lonely road to the stage win, while Alejandro Valverde suffers
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE It is often said that the best form of defence is attack. With Floyd Landis holding a increasingly narrow lead over a host of local talent and with just today's stage before a much-needed rest day, US Postal adopted this philosophy right from the start of the stage when they sent their lowest placed rider, David Zabriskie, down the road after just five kilometres with the aim of making their rivals do the chasing. The plan worked, and how. Four hours later, US time trial champion Zabriskie rolled across the line in Caravaca de la Cruz a very weary stage winner, still a minute clear of the chasing pack which was led in by Alessandro Petacchi. Zabriskie's victory was certainly helped by the day's other main action, which came just a couple of kilometres after his attack when attempts were being made by members of the speeding bunch to get across to the American. Wheels touched near the back of the peloton and a number of riders went down. The most badly hurt was second-placed Alejandro Valverde, who had started the day relishing the ride across his home province of Murcia but unfortunately spent almost all of it wishing for the end. The CV-Kelme rider needed a new bike and jersey after the crash which left him battered and bleeding on many parts of his body. Hearing of his fate, the peloton slowed, an action for which CV-Kelme team manager Vicente Belda was extremely grateful on race radio. Alone up ahead, Zabriskie ploughed on in total ignorance of the clamour behind, building a lead of a shade under 20 minutes with 60 kilometres covered. As Zabriskie maintained his relentless average of 25mph, the peloton began to stir. Valverde was still with them after several visits to the race doctor, but his fixed grimace and the frequent pushes of his team-mates told the story. The fairytale return to Murcia had become a four-hour-long nightmare. Fassa Bortolo, Cofidis and Liberty Seguros did manage to knock lumps out of the flagging Zabriskie's lead coming into the finish, but it was too late to deny the sweat-caked 25 year old a richly deserved victory. The sprint won by Petacchi saw the lead in the points competition change hands yet again. Stuart O'Grady began the day with a four-point advantage over Erik Zabel, but the German took second place in three intermediate sprints to move two ahead. Clearly O'Grady was waiting for the final sprint to make his effort, and he made it tell by finishing behind Petacchi and two places ahead of the German to take a two-point lead into tomorrow's rest day. Stage 11, San Vicente del Raspeig-Caravaca de la Cruz 1 David Zabriskie (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor 165.8km in 4.05.31 (40.52kph) 2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 1.11 3 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 4 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Vini Caldirola 5 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile 6 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola 7 Jorge Ferrio (Spa) Costa de Almeria 8 Erki Putsep (Est) Ag2r 9 Aitor Perez (Spa) Cafs Baqu 10 Antonio Cruz (USA) US Postal 33 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 38 Michael Barry (Can) US Postal 45 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak 72 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) CV-Kelme 105 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile 148 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis 2.51 Overall standings 1 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor 40.30.33 2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) CV-Kelme 0.09 3 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 0.29 4 Isidro Nozal (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.32 5 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.47 6 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal 0.59 7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 1.35 8 Denis Menchov (Rus) Illes Balears 2.42 9 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 2.50 10 Angel Gomez (Spa) Costa de Almeria 4.16 11 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) CV-Kelme 4.19 12 David Blanco (Spa) CV-Kelme 4.24 13 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak 4.35 14 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco 5.17 15 Victor Hugo Pe¤a (Col) US Postal 6.33 15 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Lampre 6.43 17 Luis Perez (Spa) Cofidis 7.00 18 Ruben Plaza (Spa) CV-Kelme 7.07 19 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola 7.24 20 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak 7.52 28 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak 10.11 61 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile 28.16 62 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 28.50 81 Antonio Cruz (USA) US Postal 38.54 90 Michael Barry (Can) US Postal 42.42 104 David Zabriskie (USA) US Postal 55.06 163 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis 1.42.13 Points 1 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 130 2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile 128 3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Raobank 108 Mountains 1 Jos Miguel Elias (Spa) Relax-Bodysol 48 2 Eladio Jimenez (Spa) CV-Kelme 38 3 David Fernandez (Spa) Costa de Almeria 35
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