Francesco Gavazzi won the 18th stage of the Vuelta a España this afternoon.
This 18th stage from Sollares in Pamplona to Noja close to the Bay Of Biscay, saw Zaugg of Leopard Trek not start and Movistar's Madrazo abandon due to a stomach bug which was sweeping thiscaye Spanish based team.
A group of seventeen riders broke away after ten kilometres and one of those riders - Matteo Mataguti who is second in the King Of The Mountains competition took the first climb of the day at Puerto de la Braguía and was second on the Alto del Caracol after 75.1 kms.
Joaquin Rodriquez took the first intermeditate sprint at Hermosa and with the main peloton some ten and a half minutes back, it was another rider from this seventeen strong bunch in Cofidis rider Nico Sijmens who took the next climb at Puerto de Alisas ahead of Montaguti who moved to eight points behind David Moncoutie.
Rodriquez added another four points for taking the second intermediate sprint at Riba as Nicholas Roche and Walter Pouls broke from the peloton in a bid to improve their GC placings.
With less than 40km to go, the front eleven riders, none of whom were affecting the GC, were ahead of the peloton by eleven minutes and eight seconds.
Sijmens took the fourth climb at Alto de Cruz Usaño after 138 km before Sergio Paolinho of Radio Shack decided he was going for a lone descent towards the finish at Noia after being first over the final climb of the day on the category 3 Puerto de Fuente las Varas.
Paolinho who does not yet have a contract for next season, was still out in front whilst the group behind were arguing amongst themselves as to who was going to work to bring the Portuguese rider who had no team-mates in the chasing group, back.
Paolinho passed Noja's football stadium with 3kms to go out in front. But 500 metres later, it was all over and Kristof Van de Valle led the group passed him along with Lampre rider Gavazzi who took the stage in a time of 4hr 24 mins and 52 seconds.
Second was Van de Valle with Geniez third ten seconds back. The Peloton came home 7:42 later with Bradley Wiggins taking 16th place, Chris Froome was 26th, Daniel Martin 34th with Nicholas Roche 43rd and Ian Stannard 63rd.
There is no change in the leaders jersey with JJ Cobo ahead of Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins. Daniel Martin is 14th, Nicholas Roche 18th and Ian Stannard 111th.
Tomorrow's 19th stage is from Noja to Bilbao and is 158.5 kms long.
Picture copyright of Tour Of Spain/Graham Watson