'We can win this race'
By Shane Stokes in Almeria
Battling Astana duo Alexandre Vinokouov and Andrey Kashechkin said on Monday that they were determined to keep fighting to the end in this Vuelta a España, and that they were hoping that the third week of the race would expose a chink in the armoury of Alejandro Valverde, the current race leader.
"Kash and I are in a similar situation and both of us can still win," said Vinokourov at the team's press conference at the NH Cuidad de Almeria hotel. "Kash is only 48 seconds back and I am 1'38 down, so we can play one off the other to attack tomorrow and in the days ahead.
"I think that for us, the best thing is if the course is as hard as possible. If the group gets thinned down before the final climb then that is best for us."
Both riders took the fight to Valverde on the last big mountain stage contested so far, namely the race to the Alto de la Cobertoria on stage nine. The duo attacked early on and opened up a significant gap, although Valverde was able to respond in the final few minutes of racing and overtake Kashechkin. However, by that time Vinokourov had already flown the coup, and although the Spaniard chased hard in the hope of overhauling his rival as he had done two days earlier, he was unable to do so.
Kashechkin said that they would be aggressive in the days ahead. "It is not hard to attack," he said. "You just need the legs and the head. It is now the third week and things are much harder for everyone, so if you are strong, then you can attack and really change the general classification.
Vinokourov agreed, saying that, "the stage to La Pandera is hard, very hard. We will try to work together, finding the right time and conditions to attack there.