Cobo digs deep to hold onto Vuelta lead

Cantabrian regrets not studying the climb to the finish

Juan Jose Cobo (Geox-TMC) lives just 30km from the summit finish in Peña Cabarga but admitted that not studying the climb before the race almost cost him the lead in the Vuelta a España.

Chris Froome (Team Sky) managed to gap the Spaniard during the very steep final kilometre of the Vuelta's 17th stage and Cobo almost cracked. Somehow he dug deep, was encouraged to fight back by the emotional local cycling fans, and managed to close the gap on the Kenyan-born Briton. Froome went on to win the stage and Cobo finished in second place, one second behind him.

"I seriously thought I'd lost the Vuelta," Cobo said afterward. "I live close by but I made a big mistake by not coming to check out the finish of this stage beforehand.

"Froome's attack was really strong and when he went, I wasn't able to follow him. I couldn't go on and so decided to ease up a little and recover. I managed to gradually pull him back and get on his wheel."

Fans of the Bison

Hundred of Cobo fans traveled from his home town of Cabezón de la Sal, Cantabria, to cheer him on, many dressed as bison or 'Bisonte', the nickname given to the Geox-TMC rider because of his stocky but strong build.

"If it hadn't been for all this support, I'd have lost the lead for sure," Cobo said, reinforcing his status as a national, or at least Cantabrian hero, at the 2011 Vuelta.

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