The conversion of Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) from cyclo-cross king to formidable road foe continued apace with victory for the in-form Czech on stage seven of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana.
The double world cyclo-cross champion, whose last engagement before the Spanish national tour ended with stage and overall victory at the Eneco Tour, outfoxed world road race champion, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), to claim the victory after the pair had broken clear in the final 10km of the 209km seventh stage from Almendralejo to Mairena de Aljafare.
Stybar’s patience proved the decisive virtue, prolonging Gilbert’s winless streak in the rainbow stripes of world road race champion.
Stybar dedicated his victory to team-mate, Tony Martin, the world time trial champion, who was passed within 30 metres of the line yesterday after a solo attack that last nearly the entirety of stage six.
“Yesterday was really painful for him and for the team,” Stybar said. “Tonight, for sure, we will celebrate and share this victory all together.”
A technical final 10km helped Stybar and Gilbert preserve a slender advantage over a rampaging peloton forced to slow by the tight twists and turns of a challenging parcours. The Czech described the closing kilometres as a “perfect scenario” for an attack.
Having been passed by Stybar, Gilbert staged a comeback in the dying seconds, nearly passing his Czech rival on the line.
The Belgian put a brave face on another near miss. “I am happy,” he said. “I am still missing a victory this season, but I have been close a lot of times.”
There was no change in the general classification, with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) retaining his three-second lead over Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard). Nicolas Roche (Saxo Tinkoff) remains third, eight seconds back.
Tomorrow’s 166km stage from Jerez de la Frontera to Alto Peñas Blancas ends with a summit finish at nearly 1,000 metres.