Cunego wins 8th stage of Spanish Vuelta

Sep 6, 2009 - 5:33 PM ALTO DE AITANA, Spain(AP) -- Damiano Cunego of Italy won the eighth stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Sunday with a powerful climb up the final ascent and Cadel Evans gained the overall race lead.

Cunego, riding for Lampre, finished the 127.2-mile mountain stage from Alzira to Aitana in 6 hours, 4 minutes, 54 seconds. David Moncoutie was second 33 seconds behind and Robert Gesink was another three seconds back.

Evans finished fourth, 44 seconds off the pace, to take a two-second overall lead on Alejandro Valverde, who finished fifth in the same time.

The first mountain stage of the Vuelta featured eight climbs, including the final ascent to Alto de Aitana, a 13.5-mile climb with an average gradient of 5.7 percent.

With 8 miles to go, Johnny Hoogerland and Sebastien Hinault broke away from the pack and set a strong pace at the front while David Herrero Llorente, Jakob Fuglsang, Frank Schleck and Alexander Vinokourov all struggled at the back.

Moncoutie then pushed hard to overtake the leaders but was followed by a charging Cunego, who powered ahead to cross the line first.

Samuel Sanchez fell midway through the stage but climbed back on his bike and finished tied for fifth. The Euskaltel-Euskadi team said he was not injured seriously.

"I fell on the first descent, I braked and hit the floor," Sanchez said. "I had to ride very hard for 15 kilometers to catch up with the pack."

Monday brings another mountain stage, a 117.3-mile ride from Alcoy to Xorret del Cati.

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