By Gregor Brown and Hernan Alvarez
American Jason McCartney dropped the hammer on his breakaway companions with just 10km to go in the 207km stage 14 of the Vuelta a España. With an expression of strength and determination, he muscled his way solo to the finish line.
McCartney launched his attack against the 11 riders who had formed the break since kilometer 66 just as it was failing to work well together. Thomas Lövkvist (Française Des Jeux) followed in a solo chase effort that eventually netted him second place, and Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) brought home third.
The 34 year-old's win came just in time to put him in the spotlight as teams are in the midst of contract negotiations for the 2008 season. McCartney's Team Discovery Channel is set to disband at the end of the season. The Iowa native has a reputation for being a strong team player, although he also managed a third place at the Tour of California in February. McCartney's name became a familiar one in the cycling world after he won the Olympic trials road race in 2004 and earned a berth on the US Olympic team.
José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) attacked first, but McCartney later countered with Spaniard Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick.Step - Innergetic), and soon after was solo. He committed firmly to his attack and did not succumb to the determined chasing of the 23 year-old Lövkvist who would finish 28 seconds back. Schumacher ended up third, 50 seconds back along with the remnants of the break while the peloton was just over 10 minutes back.
Racers will tackle Stage 15 on Sunday from Villacarrillo to Granada over 201.4km. A leg-buster of a stage greets the riders before they can enjoy rest day number two. Two category three climbs and the final alto, the category 1 Alto de Monachil separate the finish from the start.
Team Rabobank successfully defended the overall top spot of their leader Denis Menchov who sits two minutes in front of Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) and a bit more still in front of Cadel Evans (Predictor - Lotto), who is clearly still going strong after his second place in the Tour de France in July.