Ireland’s Philip Deignan gave Cervélo their second stage victory of the Tour of Spain when he powered across the finish line at Avila ahead of Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas).

The 26-year-old Deignan made a long sprint for the line to which Kreuziger was completely unable to respond. Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang (SaxoBank) finished third.

It was his Deignan’s first victory since the Tour de Doubs in 2005 and Ireland’s first in the Tour of Spain since Sean Kelly won a stage into Collado Villalba way back in 1988, when he also won overall. It was also the first country’s first in a Grand Tour since Stephen Roche won at La Borboule in 1992.

“It’s been a great year for Irish cycling,” Deignan recognised afterwards. “Dan Martin (Garmin-Slipstream) has been doing really well, and Nico [Nicolas Roche - Ag2R] as well. A result like this just caps it all off.”

Deignan and Kreuziger had formed part of a 16 rider break on stage crossing the sierras of Madrid from south to north in freezing cold weather. Perhaps discouraged by the sudden drop in temperatures, or by the organisation’s rather odd decision to place the hardest climb of the day first, not last, the overall leaders barely reacted on the first category Puerto de Miares, when the break of the day went clear.

Deignan and Kreuziger were amongst the most active riders of the 16 when the collaboration ended on the day’s last climb, the third category Alto del Boqueron. When the Czech rider made a long drive on the fast descent, Deignan was quick to go with him.

The two worked well together on the final run-in to Avila, and surprisingly Kreuziger did not attack on the cobbled section leading into the city itself.

In fact it did not seem as if the Czech had any power left at all when Deignan accelerated away with 200 metres to go for a well-deserved win.

The Cervélo pro has also shot up the overall classification as a result of his day-long breakaway, moving from 18th to ninth, 7-49 behind Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D’Epargne).

Valverde had to contend with some last-minute sprinting by Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), which allowed the Australian to regain a second overall on Holland’s Robert Gesink, but that was the toughest challenge the Spaniard faced all day.

“I think I’m in a position to win overall,” Valverde stated, now with just two hurdles to face: tomorrow’s three first category climbs on the stage from Avila to La Granja, together with Saturday’s final time trial in Toledo. If he gets over them, then he’ll be home and dry for the first major Tour of his career.

Danielson out

Garmin-Slipstream’s Tom Danielson has dropped out of the Vuelta due to illness. The American was sitting in ninth position overall before stage 18, but dropped out of the race during the day due to an on-going respiratory infection.

Results

Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage 18, Talavera de la Reina-Avila, 165km

1. Philip Deignan (Ire) Cervelo


2. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 3sec

3. Jacob Fuglsang (Den) Saxo Bank at 16sec

4. Manuel Vazquez (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo at 35sec

5. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 41sec

6. Mikael Cherel (Fra) Francaise des Jeux at 42sec

7. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis

8. Remy Di Gregorio (Fra) Francaise des Jeux

9. Jesus Hernandez (Spa) Astana

10. Jesus Del Nero (Spa) Fuji-Servetto all at same time.

Overall classification after stage 18

1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne

2. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 32sec

3. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-10

4. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 1-29

5. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 1-51

6. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 1-54

7. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 5-54

8. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Lampre at 6-35

9. Philip Deignan (Ire) Cervelo at 7-49

10. Juan Jose Cobo (Spa) Fuji-Servetto at 10-45

Alejandro Valverde, Vuelta a Espana 2009, stage 18

Alejandro Valverde keeps the race lead

Philip Deignan, Vuelta a Espana 2009, stage 18

Philip Deignan: happy with his victory

Cadel Evans, Vuelta a Espana 2009, stage 18

Cadel Evans (right) leads home the main contenders’ group

Philip Deignan, Vuelta a Espana 2009, stage 18

Deignan celebrates his win

Vuelta a Espana 2009: Latest news and features

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Unlucky Horner crashes out of Vuelta

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Vuelta a Espana 2009: Who will win?

Vinokourov back with Astana for the Vuelta

Britain and Ireland well represented in Vuelta

2009 Vuelta route favours climbers

Cycling Weekly’s Rider Profiles: Index

Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage reports

Stage 17: Roux takes solo win

Stage 16: Greipel storms to third win

Stage 15: Boom solos to win

Stage 14: Valverde suffers but strengthens lead

Stage 13: Unlucky Evans loses time on rivals

Stage 12: Hesjedal wins second stage for Garmin

Stage 11: Farrar takes first grand tour victory

Stage 10: Gerrans takes breakaway victory

Stage nine: Cesar wins as Valverde leads in la Vuelta

Stage eight: Cunego takes first mountain stage of 2009 Vuelta

Stage seven: Cancellara outpaces Millar in TT

Stage six: Bozic surprises sprint rivals to take win

Stage five: Greipel wins again and takes race lead

Stage four: Greipel wins after big crash wipes out bunch

Stage three: Henderson wins stage

Stage two: Ciolek takes first road stage, Hammond third

Stage one: Cancellara wins Vuelta opener

Vuelta a Espana 2009: Photos

Stage 16 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson