Report: Team Sky
Published: 26 August 2012
Chris Froome heads into the rest day in second place at the Vuelta a Espana after a hectic stage nine finale.
The Brit finished in a reduced peloton after a number of surprise attacks enlivened the finish in Barcelona as the fight for seconds continued.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) escaped to a clever victory on the stage while Joaquim Rodriguez extended his race lead in behind.
The pair put in a surprise attack on the final climb of the Alto do Montjuic and combined well to take valuable time at the finish.
Bonus seconds saw Rodriguez (Katusha) push his lead out even further at the top of the standings with Froome holding onto second with a 53-second deficit.
Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) was best of the rest on the uphill drag to the finish with the lead group featuring a time split of three seconds which Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) found himself on the right side of.
The first win of the season for Gilbert arrived off the back of numerous attacks on the short, sharp final climb. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) was the first to launch a move but was quickly brought back as the peloton hit the climb hard.
Contador remains third overall, exactly one minute behind compatriot Rodriguez with Valverde a further seven seconds back.
After the intense fight to make the break on Saturday it was a much more straightforward affair on stage nine with four riders chipping off the front in the opening kilometres.
A lead of 5:20 was all that was afforded to Javier Chacon (Andalucia), Maartijn Maaskant (Garmin-Sharp), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Mickael Buffaz (Cofidis) during the 196.3km test.
Katusha controlled the pace and it was no surprise to see the escapees swept up on the run-in to Barcelona with 25km to go.
Team Sky were again to the fore to set up Froome with Juan Antonio Flecha taking up a good position as the race turned left onto the final climb.
That set the scene for a thrilling fight on the steep ramp of the Montjuic, with Rodriguez again showing his form with an opportunistic move to eke out further time ahead of Wednesday’s crucial time trial.
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
2 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team
3 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team
4 Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
5 Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
7 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
8 Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
9 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
10 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
General classification after stage 9
1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank
4 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
6 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team
7 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
9 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team