David Moncoutie (Cofidis) secured a strong solo win in the Tour of Spain?s second stage in the Pyrenees, whilst the stalemate overall continues – despite repeated attacks by Alberto Contador (Astana).
After months out of action with a broken femur, Moncoutie?s victory has been a long time coming – in fact it?s his first since taking a Tour de France stage in 2005. This summer, Moncoutie?s lack of results provoked his Cofidis team manager Eric Boyer into giving the Frenchman a roasting for alleged apathy.
But a month later in the Vuelta, things started looking up for Moncoutie when he took off with four other riders early on stage eight.
Then, when the French veteran attacked at the foot of the final climb of Pla de Beret, the other breakaways could not respond.
Keeping a steady rhythm in the strong winds that alternated between head and tail with each switch of the hairpins, Moncoutie still had 30 seconds on the chasing group when the road flattened out two kilometres from the line.
Moncoutie?s victory is more than just the confirmation of the comeback of France?s most talented climber. The former postman has always been one of the most radical anti-dopers in his country – refusing any sort of injection from his team doctors – and his success will be seen as a triumph in cycling?s perennial battle against banned drugs.
Amongst the overall favourites, two strong drives five kilometres from the line by Contador shattered the peloton – and saw the Spaniard go clear with arch-rival Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne).
Sastre was unable to follow, but limited the gap, losing less than 10 seconds by the finish. As Contador said afterwards, the last climb was not hard enough to really do damage.
Clearly fully recovered from his near-disastrous ascent of the Rabassa on Saturday, Valverde sat on Contador?s back wheel all the way to the finish – then came round the Spaniard for the time bonus.
As expected, race leader Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) cracked, leaving the way open for Astana?s Levi Leipheimer to move back into the lead. Contador is now second overall, at 21 seconds, with Valverde in third at 49 seconds.
Astana hold the top two places as the Vuelta leaves the Pyrenees, and Contador has been the most consistent rider in the mountains.
But at the same time, the 2008 Giro winner has been unable to distance his rivals: Sastre, for example, is still only 1-27 behind.
Eight days into the Vuelta, the race is still wide open. But considering how boring the Tour of Spain was looking at the same point last year, nobody?s complaining about that.
Britain’s sole participant in the race, Jeremy Hunt (Credit Agricole), came home last on the stage and now lies 133rd overall.
TOUR OF SPAIN 2008: STAGE EIGHT RESULTS
Andorra-Pla de Beret
1. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis 151km in 4h 24min 58secs
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 34secs
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana
4. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5. John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale at same time
6. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 39 secs
7. Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Gerolsteiner
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
9. David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
10. Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo Bank at same time.
162. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Credit Agricole at 23min 15secs
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE EIGHT
1. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana in 28h 20min 3secs
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 21secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 49secs
4. Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo Bank at 1min 27secs
5. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 1min 59secs
6. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 2min 12secs
7. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 2min 23secs
8. Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) CSC-Saxo Bank at 2min 43secs
9. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 3min 11secs
10. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre at 3min 35secs.
133. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Credit Agricole at 1h 10min 7secs
Levi Leipheimer leads Robert Gesink and Carlos Sastre
Jose Rubiera works for Astana team-mate Alberto Contador
Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Igor Anton
Leipheimer: back in the gold jersey
Photos by Graham Watson
|TOUR OF SPAIN 2008|
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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