Kazakh squad Astana seized their third straight stage in a row in the Tour of Spain thanks to 2004 Olympic silver medallist Sergio Paulinho.
Paulinho delivered a searing attack on the short, winding climb leading to the finish of stage 10 of the race, a hilly 200 kilometre trek along Spain?s northern coastline from Aviles to Santillana del Mar.
The Portuguese rider?s powerful acceleration hardly caught the other 14 riders in the break, including Britain?s David Millar, by surprise – ever since the one classified climb of the day, a fairly easy third cat. ascent 11 kilometres from the finish, the attacks had been coming thick and fast.
However, the Astana rider?s move came so close to the line and was so decisive the remainder of the break, none of them major favourites overall, were unable to respond.
?I knew this finish because my directeur sportif [Herminio Diaz Zabala] lives close to here and told us what to expect in the race meeting this morning.? Paulinho, 26, said.
?But I was lucky that by the time I jumped, the rest of the break were suffering badly.?
?We?re more motivated here in the Vuelta because of our not taking part in the Tour.? Paulinho argued by way of explaing Astana?s string of stage wins . ?and we?re a lot fresher.?
As part of the Astaná team – containing two overall contenders, Andrey Kashechkin and the rider who won both stages eight and nine, Alexandre Vinokourov – Paulinho could take a back seat in the 15 man move when it formed in the first hour or so.
Millar on the other hand, was often on the front on the heavy terrain that followed, working hard for team-mate and stage three winner Francisco Ventoso.
After covering several attacks, the Briton was quickly shelled when the race reached the last little climb which served as a launch-pad for Paulinho.
Overall leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D?Epargne-Illes Balears) had a team-mate in the break as well – Vladmir Karpets – and was able to take a back seat.
The Spaniard finished in the main bunch around four minutes down.
?It was up to CSC to do the work.? he observed. ?That was good news for me and my team.?
Wednesday?s stage starts in former three-times World Champion Oscar Freire?s hometown of Torrelavega and includes two first category climbs early on.
However, it then runs through exposed, flat moorland for 80 kilometres to the northern city of Burgos, where – unless a break goes clear on the climbs – there should be a bunch sprint.