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Saturday September 8, 2012

Bennati wins 18th stage, Contador in the lead

VALLADOLID (Spain): Italian rider Daniele Bennati from team RadioShack won the 18th stage of the Tour of Spain on Thursday, a 204km race from Aguilard de Campoo to Valladolid.

Spain’s Alberto Contador, back in the saddle after a two-year doping ban, held on to the overall leader.

Bennati, who had been unable to get to the front of the pack in earlier crowded finishes, managed to cross the line ahead of Briton Ben Swift, of Sky team, and Australian Allan Davis of Orica-Greenedge.

Following a tough year, in which he occasionally struggled with fitness, the 31-year-old Italian finally got back to winning ways, making a final spurt to get just ahead of Swift.

After Contador’s dramatic victory on Wednesday there were no major shake-ups to the overall standings.

The Saxo-Bank rider keeps the overall lead, 1:52 seconds ahead of fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde and 2:28 seconds ahead of Joaquim Rodriguez.

Contador was all smiles after taking a commanding lead in the overall standings on Wednesday.

“There was a bit of champagne yesterday, not too much,” he said. “In the three remaining days anything can happen, we can’t relax.”

He reported no problems in the latest stage.

“We had to be very careful in case the wind got up and there was a fall or breakage. We had a day with no problems, perfect,” he said.

Wednesday’s big loser, Rodriguez, who slipped from first to third place in the overall ranking, admitted he was still disappointed.

“I slept well but it’s true that today I thought more about yesterday’s stage than today’s.”

Five cyclists managed to break away from the group from the 10km mark.

Spaniards Luis Angel Mate and Gustavo Cesar Veloso, Dutch rider Martijn Keizer, American Brent Book­walter and Latvian Gatis Smukulis built up a lead of up to four minutes from the peloton.

But they were finally caught 15km from the line.

Meanwhile, a fall during the stage forced Germany’s Linus Gerdemann to retire from the race. — AFP

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