For the second time in 24 hours, Alberto Contador has powered to a lone mountain-top stage win. The Astana rider is now in an even stronger position overall and even closer to taking the third major Tour of his career.
Contador tore away from team-mate Levi Leipheimer and gc challenger Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo-Galicia) 1.5 kilometres from the summit of the Fuentes de Invierno climb.
His winning margin was just a handful of seconds, but the Astana rider still had time for his trademark pistol salute. Second across the line was Leipheimer, with Mosquera in third place.
?You can?t miss out on these occasions,? Contador argued. ?I wasn?t really looking for a stage win, more to open up a bigger margin overall.
?But there were a lot of fans from Madrid come up to see me race, and they told me from the team car I should attack. So I did.
?I said yesterday that we could start racing more defensively. That?s what I plan to do from now on, until Saturday?s final mountain time trial.?
Contador?s victory on stage 14 was in no way a carbon copy of the clinically executed teamwork by Astana on the Angliru, which culminated in his final, devastating attack.
Instead, the 25-year-old followed a powerful acceleration by Mosquera four kilometres from the line, with Leipheimer sticking to his team leader?s back wheel like glue.
Fifth in the Vuelta last year, Mosquera?s move had caused both Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D?Epargne) and Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank) to crack. Sensing he could challenge for the podium, the Galician veteran kept the pace high despite a noticeable lack of collaboration from either Contador or Leipheimer.
?I didn?t need to increase my lead any further overall, so I didn?t want to do any work,? Contador said afterwards – a statement which contradicted completely his earlier claim that he had only followed Mosquera because he wanted to gain more time overall.
Whatever the real reason was, after Contador’s second stage win in the Vuelta, Sastre and Valverde are now even further back overall.
The 2008 Tour winner has lost time to Contador on every uphill finish in the Vuelta, and on Sunday Sastre lost another 20 seconds. Any lingering hopes of Sastre ‘doing an Alpe d’Huez’ and attacking when least expected must now be forgotten.
After his superb ride on the Angliru, Valverde might have been expected to do better at Fuentes de Invierno, where the steady, relatively easy gradient was surely more in his favour. Instead, he lost a minute to Contador, and has dropped to sixth overall.
?I haven?t won this by a long chalk,? Contador – ever cautious – argued. ?I?m expecting to be attacked every day. But things are certainly looking good.?
One rider doing much better than expected is Robert Gesink, the young Rabobank climber who is now fifth overall after taking fourth at Fuentes de Invierno: a superb result, considering the Vuelta is his first ever major Tour.
TOUR OF SPAIN 2008: STAGE 14 RESULTS
1. Alberto Contador (Spain) Astana 158.4kms in 4hr 16min 01sec
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 2sec
3. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo-Galicia at 4sec
4. Robert Gesink (Hol) Rabobank at 20sec
5. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis
6. Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo Bank all same time.
7. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre at 1min 0sec
8. Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Gerolsteiner
9. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse D’Epargne
10. John Gadret (Fra) Ag2R all same time
134. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Credit Agricole at 19min 37sec
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 14
1. Alberto Contador (Spain) Astana 55hr 56min 58sec
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 1min 017sec
3. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Astana at 3min 41sec
4. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo-Galicia at 4min 35secs
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 5min 49sec
6. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse D’Epargne at 6 min
7. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse D’Epargne at 6 min 11sec
8. Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 8min 56sec
9. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis at 9min 32sec
10. Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Gerolsteiner at 10 min 01sec
127. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Credit Agricole at 2hr 04min 25sec
Carlos Sastre and Alberto Contador
Inigo Landaluze leads the break
Caisse d’Epargne drive the pace
Alberto Contador wins his second consecutive stage
Photos by Graham Watson
|TOUR OF SPAIN 2008|
Stage 14: Contador takes second mountain-top stage win
Stage 13: Contador wins on Angliru to take lead
Stage 12: Bettini wins, Valverde out of contention
Stage 11: Freire wins stage
Stage 10: Hinault wins, Martinez retains lead
Stage nine: Van Avermaet takes stage, Martinez new leader
Stage eight: Moncoutie triumphs in Vuelta’s second Pyrenean stage
Stage seven: Ballan takes surprise win in mountains
Stage six: Bettini wins, Chavanel leads
Stage five: time trial win for Leipheimer
Stage four: Bennati takes crash-strewn stage
Stage three: Boonen bounces back
Stage two: Valverde powers into lead
Stage one: Liquigas are surprise winners