The Vuelta a España enters a new phase of difficult stages after two great bunch sprints dominated by Mark Cavendish and David Moncoutié realises that it's time for him to get back into the action.
“I definitely prefer the weekend stages”, said the Frenchman who won stage 8 on Saturday and took a good lead in the mountains classification with another breakaway on stage 9 one week ago. He didn’t score any more points in the Pyrénées as only the top six was rewarded at the top of Andorra-Pal and the Cofidis rider finished seventh.
However, he still enjoys a decent lead with 41 points while two Xacobeo-Galicia riders, Serafin Martinez and Gonzalo Rabunal, follow him with 36 and 25 points respectively, and race leader Igor Anton is fourth with 15 points.
Xacobeo-Galicia’s David Garcia Dapena told Cyclingnews: “In theory, we’d be in an ideal situation to try and get the polka dot jersey back [Martinez led the competition before Moncoutié] but we’re racing against the strongest guy and I don’t see how we can send one of our riders away without Moncoutié to mark him.”
“I keep being careful of both of them”, Moncoutié said. “But I don’t think they climb better than I do. The GC contenders are also dangerous for the mountain price, for instance Igor Anton and Ezequiel Mosquera. I’ll adjust my tactic to theirs. If they score a lot of points, I’ll have to compensate by going for a very long breakaway. For the polka dot jersey, the three coming stages will be crucial but I believe nothing will be decided until the uphill finish of Bola del Mundo in one week from now.”
Moncoutié is inspired by the three coming stages: “I’ve been told that the final ascent to Peña Cabarga as something similar to the Mont Faron. I’ve won up the Faron in the past but once again, it will depend on whether I manage to get a good position at the bottom of the climb.” The 13-km long climb to the Lakes of Covadonga on Sunday with its average gradient of 7.2% and a section at 15% also inspire the Frenchman since his compatriot Laurent Jalabert has won twice up there. Four climbs are scheduled for stage 16 on Monday including the Puerto de San Lorenzo and the Alto de la Cobertoria prior to the ascent to Cotobello, which has never been done before at the Vuelta.
Should Moncoutié encounter no threat in the king of the mountains competition, he might switch his focus. “I wouldn’t mind another stage win,” he said. “I’ll see where I am after Monday’s stage. If everything goes well, I’ll also try to improve my overall ranking (20th for now) but this isn’t my priority yet.”
Moncoutié is in a good position to become the first rider to have been the king of the mountains three times in a row at the Vuelta since Jose Maria Jimenez in 1997, 1998 and 1999.