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Sanchez makes a strong solo attack in the finale of the very hilly final stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon and holds off the charging peloton while Belda wins the race overall

Photo: Sirotti

CAJA RURAL - SEGUROS RGA

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JOSE JOAQUIN ROJAS GIL

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LUIS LEÓN SÁNCHEZ

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SYLVESTER SZMYD

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VUELTA A CASTILLA Y LEON

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18.05.2014 @ 18:50 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Luis Leon Sanchez (Caja Rural) did what he does best in today's final stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon when he launched a strong solo attack in the final part of the very hilly route. He passed lone leader Benat Txoperena (Euskadi) and held off the peloton to take a beautiful solo win while David Belda (Burgos) defended his lead and took home a breakthrough overall victory.

 

Luis Leon Sanchez is known as a master of breakaways in hilly races and looking at the difficult profile of today's final stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, it seemed that the race had Sanchez' name written all over it. With several big climbs at the midpoint of the race, a difficult descent and a rolling finale, it looked like a day where a strong rider could prevail.

 

Sanchez didn't disappoint as he made use of his excellent climbing, descending and rouleur skills to take a solo victory. At the end of a very aggressive race that had had constantly changing race situations, he launched a gutsy solo move and quickly got a big gap.

 

20km from the finish, he caught Benat Txoperena who had been the lone leader for a long time and on the final categorized climb, he left his companion behind. Sergio Sousa (Efapel) tried to bridge the gap, passing Txoperena in the process, but he never made it across.

 

In the diminished peloton, Movistar were chasing hard for Jose Joaqiun Rojas who had won the opening stage of the race and survived the tough climbing. However, their former teammate was too strong for the riders from the only ProTeam in the race and Sanchez held on to take a beautiful solo win.

 

Sousa did a good job to take second while Rojas was left wondering what might have been when he beat Sanchez' teammate Fabricio Ferrari in the sprint for third.

 

David Belda and his small Burgos team defended themselves well against the many attacks and as the 31-year-old Spaniard finished safely within in the bunch, he maintained his 57-second lead over Marcos Garcia (Caja Rural) to become a surprise overall winner of the race. Sylwester Szmyd (Movistar) showed signs of his past strength when he took the final spot on the podium, 4 seconds further adrift.

 

Rojas won the points jersey, Paolo Ciavatta (Aero Zero) took the mountains jersey and Caja Rural won the teams classification.

 

Due to the economic crisis, most Spanish races have disappeared and the next big events on Spanish soil are the national championships in the end of June.

 

A hilly stage

The three-day Vuelta a Castilla y Leon came to a close with a very hilly 164.6km stage from Lubian to Bembridge. After an easier start, the riders went up two big climbs at the midpoint of the stage before descending to a rolling final 30km that included a small climb 20km from the line. The lumpy nature invited to attacks and Belda's Burgos team was expected to come under pressure.

 

The riders took the start in beautiful, sunny conditions and prepared themselves for a very fast start as most teams had planned to go on the attack. The first riders to get a significant gap were Raul Alarcon (Louletano), Evgeny Shalunov (Lokoshinx) and Paolo Ciavatta (Aero Zero) but they were brought back after 6km of racing.

 

A 24-rider group goes clear

At the 8km mark, Vicente Garcia (Louletano), Victor de la Parte (Efapel), Simone Petilli (Aero Zero(, Benat Txoperena (Euskadi), Jesus Del Pino (Burgos), Segundo Mesias (Ecuador), Luca Chirico (MG Kvis), Ibai Salas (Burgos), Alfredo Balloni (Nakang), Ametx Txurruka (Caja Rural), and Diego Ochoa (4-72) formed a dangerous move but Burgos brought it back after 15km of racing. The elastic snapped at the 25km mark when a big 24-roder group took off.

 

The group contained Jon Larrinaga (Euskadi), Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar), Balloni,  Kirill Sveshnikov (Lokoshinx), Diego Rubio (Efapel), Gianluca Mengardo (Aero Zero), Filipe Cardoso )Efapel), Gianluca Leonardi (Aero Zero),, Garikoitz Bravo (Efapel), Filippo Baggio (Nankang), Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Fabio Chinello (Aero Zero), Andre Mourato (LA Aluminios), Bernado Suaza (4-73), Mattia Frapporti (MG Kvis), Cesar Fonte (Radio Popular), Petilli, Diego Ocho (4-73), Ciavatta, Daniel Freitas (LA Aluminios), Francesco Lasca (Caja Rural); Igor Merino (Burgos), Victor Etxebarria (Euskadi), Chirico, Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural); Matteo Gozzi (Nankang), Arkimedes Arguelyes (Lokoshinx), and Juan Jose Oroz (Burgos). At the 30km mark, they were 1.38 ahead and the gap reached 2.23 before Movistar started to chase.

 

A new group forms

At the top of the first of the two big climbs, the gap was 1.35 and Süuterlin, Leonardi, Freitas, Suaza and Chinello had been dropped on the slopes. Meanwhile, the peloton had been split into two bigger groups and the first one soon caught all the escapees

 

Carlos Barbero (Euskadi) and Ciavatta attacked from the peloton and quickly got a gap. Larrinaga, Alarcon, Haritz Orbe (Euskadi), Txoperena,  Luis Afonso (LA Aluminios), Fonte, Gozzi, Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Daniel Silva (Radio Popular) took off in pursuit and after 95km of racing the front duo was 1.39 ahead.

 

New attacks

Txurruka and Sergio Sousa (Efapel) bridged the gap to the chase group while Ricardo Mestre (Efapel) and Jesus Del Pino (Burgos) tried a similar move. The chase group caught the front dup and at the top Afonso, Txoperena, Larrinaga, Txurruka, Visconti, Alarcon, Ciavatta, Barbero, Sousa and Bravo were 50 seconds ahead of the peloton.

 

Del Pino and Mestre made the junction while the gap was kept stable at around a minute. At the 127km mark, Txoperena attacked and he got clear on his own. The peloton was now led by Burgos and Caja Rural and they caught most of the chase group, with only Mestre, Sousa, Txurruka and Del Pino surviving.

 

Txoperena takes off

They caught Txoperena but a further selection was made. Suddenly, only Txoperena, Txurruka and Sousa remained and Txoperena made another attack at the 140km mark.

 

At this point, Sanchez made his move and he set off in pursuit of Txoperena. 20km from the line, he made it across while only Sousa was in between the front duo and the peloton.

 

Sanchez dropped his companion who fell back to Sousa and with 15km to go, he was 20 seconds ahead of his two chasers. He extended his lead all the way to the finish to cross the line almost a minute ahead of Sousa who had dropped Txoperena. A minute later, Rojas won the sprint for third while Belda rolled across the line to take the overall win.

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