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The First Endurance sponsored LEOPARD TREK team continued its dominance at the Vuelta today by putting yet another LEOPARD TREK rider into the lead after stage two. While Fuglsang took to the second stage start of the Vuelta a España in the red leader’s jersey, it was his teammate Daniele Bennati who pulled on the jersey this afternoon.

“I dedicate this jersey to Wouter [Weylandt],” said Bennati. Weylandt was tragically killed on a descent during the third stage of the Giro d’Italia. “I have taken wins since Wouter has passed away, but this is the first honor I dedicate specifically to him. He won a stage of the Vuelta [stage 17 in 2008].”
“We didn’t know each other long, but in the time that we got to know each other, we became close friends,” added Bennati. “We raced together in Qatar and Oman. He was meant to be my final leadout man at the Giro before I crashed in Romandie. Wouter spoke some words of Italian, so this improved our friendship. Today is for him.”

The peloton began the second day of racing in La Nucía under the unrelenting Spanish sunshine. With temperatures reaching 42º Celsius, the bunch seemed content to let an early break of four slip away and gain a maximum advantage of more than six minutes. The first hour of racing covered a slow but steady 35 kilometers.
LEOPARD TREK came to the front of the field to keep an eye on the proceedings when the break reached the six-minute mark. They would remain at the front, alone, until Liquigas-Cannondale, Skil-Shimano and HTC-Highroad, all with an interest in the sprint finish, moved up to share the workload. The break’s advantage had been brought down to one minute with 30 kilometers left to race.

“Our plan was clear,” said Bennati. “We decided we would put Fabian [Cancellara] and Stuey [Stuart O’Grady] on the front. Fabian would lead on the climb between four and two kilometers. Stuey was to take over before [Robert] Wagner and Viga [Davide Viganò] began the leadout.”
“This was a plan that I thought could work when we reviewed it,” Bennati continued. “The only question was one of fine tuning. The finish of this stage was different in many perspectives than a typical sprint. It’s a hard, technical finish. We followed the plan initially, but it couldn’t carry us through to the line.”
As determined, Cancellara nudged his way to the front of pack four kilometers from the finish. He led the bunch up the climb and allowed O’Grady to take over on the descent. Inside the final kilometer, Viganò took a flyer. The field reeled him back 500 meters from the finish.

“I took [Tom] Boonen’s (Quickstep) wheel when he started to sprint on the final hill,” explained Bennati. “He held back a bit at the top of the climb, so I did, too. We were on a false flat, and there was still a way to go to the line. When the attack came from [Vicente] Reynes of Omega Pharma-Lotto, I had a small moment of doubt. The moment cost me my chance to sprint for victory. By the time I decided to respond, I had run out of road to close the gap.”

“I am very happy to have the leader’s jersey,” said Bennati. “But it’s a double feeling. It’s an honor to take the race lead in a Grand Tour. I would be happier if I had taken the race lead with the win.”  Bennati knows there other opportunities during the next three weeks to secure a stage victory. “I’m feeling good right now,” commented Bennati. “I’m happy with my condition, and the team is strong. There are more chances to come.”

General classification after stage 2

1 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard Trek 4:28:11
2 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek
3 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek
4 Thomas Rohregger (Aut) Leopard Trek