Vuelta Travelogue - Quintessential Spain
Stage 5, August 31th, Alcazar de San Juan to Cuenca, 176 km
The association with Quixote continues on Stage 5 as the race heads for the capital of La Mancha, Cuenca . About 12 km from the finish the only climb of the day (Category 3) takes the field past the old castle on the Alto del Castillo. Cuenca itself clings to the summit of two deep gorges and the race finish here can be expected to be as thrilling as on past visits. The race penetrates the heart of the old city and sweeps past the cathedral and Plaza Mayor. During the evening those staying down in the new town will be able to look up and see the famous Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses) that are built into the vertical side of the gorge.
The flat parcours of the stage will be made hard by the high temperatures and heavy winds of the region. Early breakaways may fall apart on the tough climb of the Alto del Castillo. Off a very fast pace for the first hour (50.9 km/h) an eight riders breakaway formed at the 61 km mark of the stage. The break of the day built a 4'20” lead before the peloton started to chase. Once the chase became hard the time gap fell quickly and at the base of the Alto del Castillo the breakaway was caught.
Eight rider breakaway forming ( Image © Unipublic ).
Peloton chasing hard ( Image © Unipublic ).
A series of late attacks were nullified by the sprinter's teams. Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez made one last effort and held a small gap with 2 km to go. The Quick Step lead-out train brought the race back together under the 1 km banner with Tom Boonen driving the pace for Paolo Bettini. The top sprinter lined up behind Bettini. The train ran out of riders so the Italian jumped early. As Bettini faded Thor Hushovd timed the sprint to perfection and grabbed the stage win. Miguel Martin Perdiguero finished second with Relax's Josep Jufre third. Brad McGee held the Golden Jersey for a fourth day.
Stage winner Hushovd ( Image © Unipublic )
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