First Endurance rider Daniele Bennati (Radioshack Nissan Trek) won stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana in a photo finish. Bennati took the win by a tire width. ‘Benna’ dedicated his win to his grandfather as well as former teammate Wouter Weylandt who won this same stage in 2008 but suffered fatal injuries in the Giro d’Italia last year.
Bennati: “I am really tired but very happy. This was hard work but it’s a special day. Four years ago Wouter won on this finish line and for sure today he was with me. He was a good friend and good teammate and today I feel he gave me extra forces to win. I also thought of my grandfather today who passed on during training camp last winter. I dedicate this win to both of them.”
Team director José Azevedo had high praise for the dedicated teamwork on display throughout the race: “This is an important victory for the team. We’ve been fighting since the first day for a victory. We came here with confidence that Benna could win a stage. In the early part of the race, he was close on many days but in the sprint it isn’t so easy for things to be just right. We controlled from the beginning today, especially Tiago and Markel. They have done so much work almost every day. Things were broken up then when Linus crashed but in the end it was Gregory, Jan and Max who put him in a good position for the final. He showed he was stronger than the others today. I’m very happy for him and the entire team.” Linus Gerdemann crashed near 30km to go and had to abandon the race. He has a contusion of the left shoulder and is somewhat dizzy but in general his injuries do not seem too serious.
“It was such a fast last kilometer,” said Bennati. “It was a calculated sprint. I was on the wheel of Swift and at 200m he went full gas and I came around him for the win. I’m happy for my teammates too. They worked all day and we were focused on this stage. The stages have been hot and challenging so far but the team was determined to work for me. I received incredible support from my teammates as well as directors José Azevedo and Luca Guercilena. I’ve tried in many previous stages but things didn’t go completely right until today. Each day since the Vuelta started I’ve felt stronger and stronger, and finally today I was strong enough. It’s always this way for me in a grand tour – I am at my best in the final week.” It was Bennati’s sixth career win in la Vuelta.