The 2009 Vuelta a Esapana's final mountain stage saw Alejandro Valverde remain in control but proved disastrous for Holland's Robert Gesink (Rabobank), who lost nearly five minutes on the stage.
The day's win went to Fuji-Servetto rider Juan Jose Cobo (Fuji-Servetto) after he blasted away with two kilometres to go from a group of eight riders containing all of the main favourites - except Gesink.
The Dutchman's bad crash on stage 17 had left him with seven stitches covering a large gash in one knee, and although able to hold on during stage 18, stage 19's three first category climbs proved too much.
Dropped on the Morcuera, Gesink regained contact on the descent, but he had barely started the second and final assault of the Navacerrada before he was definitively out the back.
The whole Rabobank team stayed behind to support their leader, but it was not enough. The Dutchman lost 4-44 and the podium to boot.
As a result, Spain's Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) moves up to second overall on the podium, and Ivan Basso (Liquigas) is in third, although Saturday's 28.6 kilometre time trial could see yet more changes, as Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) seems to be finishing strongly.
Dan Martin (Garmin-Slipstream) made an impressive attack earlier in the stage alongside Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) and Eduard Vorganov (Xacobeo-Galicia).
The trio's attack lasted 100 kilometres over three classified climbs and saw them gain six minutes at one point - on a stage made even tougher by atrocious weather conditions.
But Euskaltel-Euskadi started driving hard once they realised Gesink was in difficulties and the trio were reeled in before the second ascent of Navacerrada. It was great effort from Martin, riding his first ever major Tour but still able to go clear just two days before the finish.
Once Martin's move had folded the rest of the stage was proved as grey and dull as the weather.
Samuel Sanchez's widely predicted attacks briefly isolated Valverde and the two were briefly off the front on the descent to the finish in La Granja, but that was that. Slowly the main group reformed, then Cobo, last seen in a Grand Tour finishing second behind the EPO-fuelled Leonardo Piepoli on the summit of Hautacam in the Tour 2008, went clear.
Perhaps it was the lousy weather that kept the favourites from attacking, but whatever the reason this finale to the Vuelta has been anythnig but enthralling.
Still, there's tomorrow's time trial in Toledo to look forward to, with Britain's David Millar determined to go one better than he did in Valencia's race against the clock, where he finished second.
"I'm putting all my eggs in that basket," Millar told Cycling Weekly before the start, "although we were staying Toledo a couple of nights ago and it looked pretty hilly, it's actually a pretty hard course. I just hope it doesn't rain again, either!"
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage 19, Ávila-La Granja. Real Fábrica de Cristales, 179.8km
1. Juan Jose Cobo (Spa) Fuji-Servetto in 4-37-35
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 2sec
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto
4. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
6. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia
7. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Lampre
8. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas all same time
9. Manuel Vazquez (Spa) Contentpolis-Ampo at 1-34
10. Remy Di Gregorio (Fra) Francaise des Jeux at same time.
Overall classification after stage 19
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne in 83-34-03
2. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-26
3. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 1-45
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 1-59
5. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 2-11
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 5-30
7. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Lampre at 6-49
8. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 7-42
9. Philip Deignan (Ire) Cervelo at 9-37
10. Juan Jose Cobo (Spa) Fuji-Servetto at 10-40
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Latest news and features
Deignan delighted with hard-fought win over Kreuziger
Gesink okay to start Vuelta stage 18 after crash
Freire set for retirement in 2010
Unlucky Horner crashes out of Vuelta
Wegelius abandons the Vuelta
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Who will win?
Vinokourov back with Astana for the Vuelta
Britain and Ireland well represented in Vuelta
2009 Vuelta route favours climbers
Cycling Weekly's Rider Profiles: Index
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage reports
Stage 18: Deignan takes Irelands first Vuelta stage win in 21 years
Stage 17: Roux takes solo win
Stage 16: Greipel storms to third win
Stage 15: Boom solos to win
Stage 14: Valverde suffers but strengthens lead
Stage 13: Unlucky Evans loses time on rivals
Stage 12: Hesjedal wins second stage for Garmin
Stage 11: Farrar takes first grand tour victory
Stage 10: Gerrans takes breakaway victory
Stage nine: Cesar wins as Valverde leads in la Vuelta
Stage eight: Cunego takes first mountain stage of 2009 Vuelta
Stage seven: Cancellara outpaces Millar in TT
Stage six: Bozic surprises sprint rivals to take win
Stage five: Greipel wins again and takes race lead
Stage four: Greipel wins after big crash wipes out bunch
Stage three: Henderson wins stage
Stage two: Ciolek takes first road stage, Hammond third
Stage one: Cancellara wins Vuelta opener
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Photos
Stage 18 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 17 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 16 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham WatsonStage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
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