Cobo Wins Stage 19 of Vuelta
Juan Jose Cobo (Fuji) has won Stage 19 of the Vuelta. The Spaniard surged away from the leaders' group on the day's final climb to win the mountainous, 179.8-km ride from Avila to Real Fabrica de Cristales in 4:37:35. Race leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) outsprinted Cadel Evans (Silence) for second at 0:02.
It was another chilly, rainy day at the Vuelta. After an early break was reeled in, Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) sallied off of the front at 26 km. Daniel Martin (Garmin) and Eduard Vorganov (Xacobeo Galicia) joined the Frenchman, and the break of the day had formed.
The trio forged a seven-minute lead on the day's first climb, the Category 3 Alto del Leon, and led by about as much on the first ascent of the Category 1 Puerto de Navacerrada. Liquigas and Caisse d'Epargne took turns driving the peloton, and the lead had dropped a minute by the time that the break reached the Category 1 Puerto de la Morcuera.
The break's lead dropped dramatically on the Morcuera. Behind, Robert Gesink (Rabobank), who began the day in second overall, battled injuries suffered in a Stage 17 crash. He dropped out of the peloton, and Silence and Euskaltel joined Liquigas and Caisse d'Epargne at the front in an attempt to eliminate the Dutchman. With the help of teammates, Gesink rejoined the leaders' group on the descent.
With 45 km remaining, the escapees' advantage was down to about one minute. Ten km later, the leaders' group reeled them in, and Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil), Alexander Kolobnev (Saxo Bank), Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo Galicia), and Vorganov had a go. The Euskaltel-led leaders' group snuffed out the move.
Early in the second ascent of the Navacerrada, Gesink lost contact with the leaders' group, this time for good. He would finish at 4:44 and would plummet from second to sixth overall. Ahead, Sylvester Szymd (Liquigas) paced the GC group, and two accelerations by Sanchez did not get him clear of the group. At the summit, the GC group was down to Valverde and Daniel Moreno (both from Caisse d'Epargne), Sanchez, Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia), Evans (Silence), Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre), Cobo (Fuji), and Ivan Basso (Liquigas).
As the GC group approached the summit, Cobo attacked. Sanchez set out after the Fuji rider, and Valverde took his wheel, with Mosquera joining the pair later. On the descent, the GC group reformed as Cobo was caught and riders got back on.
In the last five km, Mosquera and Tiralongo attacked several times, but Moreno chased them down for Valverde. With two km remaining, Cobo escaped again. Moreno could not catch him. Tiralongo chased the Spaniard, but Sanchez brought back the Italian, leaving Cobo to take the biggest win of his career.
In the overall, Valverde leads Sanchez by 1:26 and Basso by 1:45. Stage 20, a flat, 28-km time trial, could shake the standings for the last time. Only 2:11 separate Valverde in first from Mosquera in sixth. Evans, who is fourth overall, is probably the best time trialist in the top half dozen riders. Expect him to pass Basso and possibly Sanchez to earn a podium spot. Also expect Evans and Sanchez to narrow but not wipe out Valverde's lead. At the end of the day, Valverde will be poised to take his first Grand Tour victory. Check in at www.roadcycling.com and see how it turns out.