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La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 7: Huesca – Alcaniz. Motorland Aragon 164.2 km

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La Vuelta a España 2012

Not for the first time, Vik took the words right out of my mouth when we were discussing the La Vuelta a España 2012;

“You can’t have a bike race finishing on a motor racing circuit, it just doesn’t work!”

And he’s right; too wide, too bleak, no atmosphere and almost no spectators.

Degenkolb was mightily impressive, again.

For all the talk of watts and tactics, sprinting is a mental game – if a sprinter’s head is right, then everything else drops into place.

It’s why Cav is so hard to beat – his self belief is total.

La Vuelta a España 2012
Degenkolb is the best of the ‘young guns’.

Sky did some quality work coming in to the circuit, with Ian Stannard once again demonstrating his bestial power, dragging team mates Froome and Swift clear in the last kilometre off a bend taken at an insane angle.

La Vuelta a España 2012
Team Sky are working brilliantly in the Vuelta.

But Argos hauled it all back together and Swift was again swept away as the big dogs salivated and ran for their prey.

Again, the ‘new wave’ was to the fore among the ‘golden oldies’ lunging for the line.

Liquigas’s Elia Viviani seems to be have been around a long time, but this is actually only his third season and he’s only 23 years-old.

This has been his best season to date with a stage win at San Luis, the Costa Etruschi, two stages and the GS in Reggio Calabria and a stage at Coppi-Bartali.

La Vuelta a España 2012
Another time trial win for Elia, and another bouquet, at the Grenoble Six.

Viviani was originally a track rider, with a raft of strong results on the boards as a junior and U23 – among them European junior and U23 points champion.

I first saw him in the Grenoble six day, a few years ago – he was mightily impressive, clocking times for the 200 and 500 only marginally slower than pure sprinters like Bauge and Sireau.

It’s his determination to cling to his track roots which some would say is holding him back a little on the road.

He rode the Olympic omnium championships in London – no medal and whichever way you look at it, a distraction.

He was mad at losing to Degenkolb; I’d predict a win for him, before the end as he finds road form again.

In third spot was a man who’s been around for a long time – GreenEDGE’s Alan Davis.

He was a stagiaire with Mapei in 2001 and has won in Aragon before – a stage in the Vuelta Ciclista a Aragon in 2005; he’s also stood on the podium in Paris-Tours and Milan-Sanremo.

It would be easy to say that at 32 Davis is approaching his ‘sell-by date’, but he’s been well in the hunt this season with podiums in Catalunya, Pais Vasco, Bavaria and Suisse.

He was close here, the other day – but with Degenkolb and Viviani in the mix it’ll be hard for him to win.

La Vuelta a España 2012
There was a bit of needle between Bert-Jan Lindeman (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) in the break.

In fourth spot was ‘man of the future’ Nacer Bouhani, at only 22 years-of-age he carries the French national champion’s jersey on his back and has won at the Etoile de Besseges, Circuit de Lorraine, Region Wallonne – and significantly, in the Belgian ‘death race’ Halle-Imgooigem.

If he can avoid the pitfalls of being an over-hyped young French rider – these include a belief that talent is more important than training, fast cars, night clubs and tall, slim cuties – then he’ll go far.

Bennati and Meersman?

We’ll talk about them at the next sprint finish.

But that won’t be tomorrow – Llieda to Andorra, 175 K with a mountain top finish at 1,555 metres.

All of the men I’ve just mentioned will be buying their ticket for the autobus at the first opportunity.

Ciao, ciao.

Results - La Vuelta a España 2012 - Stage 7