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Sunday September 9, 2012

Belgian ace Gilbert clinches 19th stage with a late surge

LA LASTRILLA (Spain): Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert clinched his second stage win of the Tour of Spain on Friday with a final surge while Spain’s Alberto Contador held on to the overall leader’s red jersey.

Gilbert launched an attack less than a kilometre from the line of the 19th stage and broke ahead of a pack of around 40 cyclists to finish ahead of Spaniards Alejandro Valverde and Daniel Moreno.

The BMC rider, who also won the ninth stage, completed the 178.4km 19th stage through completely flat terrain from Penafiel to La Lastrilla in 4’56:25.

“It is my second stage win, I am very happy, my team was attentive all day,” said Gilber at the end of the race.

“We discussed the stage and we were told that the end was very technical, it is really where the pack broke up and I thought for me it was better to sprint.”

Contador, back in the saddle after a two-year doping ban, finished in 11th place, three seconds behind Gilbert, but he was able to hold on to the overall race lead with just two stages left.

“It was complicated in the end. The last 30km were very tense,” he said.

Valverde, of the Movistar team, is in second place in the overall standings, 1:35 seconds behind Contador, while compatriot Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha is third, 2:21 from the leader.

“I fought to win the stage, but Gilbert attacked from far away and it was impossible. Tomorrow is going to be hard,” said Valverde.

Rodriguez all but conceded defeat to Contador in the pursuit of victory in the Tour.

“It will be really complicated to take the overall lead, unless a disaster hits Alberto. But I don’t think so,” said Rodriguez who has held the overall leader’s jersey for much of the race this year. — AFP

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