Italy's Ivan Basso (Liquigas) will continue to battle for the Vuelta a España's gold jersey in the race's final week. He lost time in yesterday's stage to La Pandera, but endangered Alejandro Valverde's race lead.
"I am convinced the battle for the gold jersey will continue considering there are six riders within two minutes on the general classification," Basso said.
He distanced Valverde with four kilometres to race in yesterday's mountaintop finish to La Pandera. Basso, Cadel Evans, Robert Gesink and Ezequiel Mosquera rode away from Spain's Samuel Sánchez and Valverde. The Spanish duo came back after one kilometre and then both gained time on Basso in the final kilometre.
Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) leads the race by 31 seconds on Gesink, 1:10 on Sánchez, 1:28 on Basso, 1:51 on Evans and 1:54 on Mosquera.
The stages Thursday through Saturday will reshape this overall classification. Thursday's stage to Ávila and Friday's to La Granja Real Fábrica de Cristales are both medium mountain stages that will give Valverde's rivals a chance to attack. The final decisive stage is Saturday's 27.8-kilometre time trial in Toledo.
"The stages, even without mountaintop finishes, will be made difficult by those who want to beat Valverde. Then there are the precious bonus seconds available for the win.
"My racing attitude, like I've shown up until now, will not be conservative: I want to give it all and fight to the end to obtain the best possible result."
It is Basso's first time to race the Vuelta a España, but he's finished well in other Grand Tours. He finished fifth in this year's Giro d'Italia and won the 2006 edition. He placed second in the 2005 Tour de France.
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