Briton Bradley Wiggins is the 2011 Vuelta a Espana's eighth leader and he says that even if he would have been happy with 'just' a top six placing overall in the race, now he is in top spot overall, he'll be fighting 100 per cent to keep it that way.
Sky rode a perfect strategic race on the Manzaneda climb, keeping the break of 19 (which contained Fabio Duarte (Geox), 7-04, as its most dangerous rider for GC) at a safe distance but letting them soak up the time bonuses, then upping the pace in the main pack with Morris Possoni and finally Chris Froome before Wiggins himself took over.
Of the favourites, only Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) managed to get away, and then he only gained seven seconds.
Wiggins crossed the line in 13th place, 3-08 down on Moncoutie and then - enshrouded in warm weather gear to combat the chilly winds that blasted across the ski station summit - answered the press, saying that his strategy, regardless of where he would have been overall was unchanged.
"It wouldn't have mattered if I was fifth or sixth overall, it was just about keeping a fast tempo," Wiggins said,
"The minute you slow down that's when the attacks come. It was always going to happen as long as we finished with the main guys. I'm pleased, it's good."
As for 'using' Froome on the climb, Wiggins said "Pretty much straight after the time trial we decided we'd stick to the plan."
"He did a brilliant time trial and that put him in the lead and that was his bonus. But we weren't about to change the plan."
"I came for GC, I've proven my GC status, we stuck to it, Chris rode a fantastic race for me, gave it 100 per cent, and that's what makes this team so special."
He added that the tactics had been very similar to the Covatilla, but with an even better result.
"It was a case of keeping it fast, if I'm doing threshold there's not many guys can attack over the top of that, just [Vincenzo] Nibali and Rodriguez."
"The slower it is the harder it is in some ways, and it was a very similar climb, that suited me. I was pretty confident everything was going to be ok."
Wiggins admitted that he had not expected to be in this position, coming off such a bad crash in the Tour, and that the top six in Madrid had been the goal.
"There are two or three difficult stages which will be decisive and there are time bonuses, it's not all over at all."
"But I'll give it 100 per cent, to try and hang on to this."
Previous Vuelta leaders from Great Britain
Robert Millar: 1985 (8) and 1986 (5): 13 days total
Michael Wright: 1968 (1) and 1969 (2): three days total
David Millar: 2001: three days
Mark Cavendish: 2010: two days
Chris Froome: 2011: one day
Full article: The British riders to have led one of the grand tours
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Related links
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
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