After nine stages of the Vuelta a España, perennial contender Ezequiel Mosquera is once again a threat for the general classification win.
He lost a spot on the overall standings when Olympic mountain biking silver medallist Jean-Christophe Péraud moved up after his breakaway on stage nine but MOsquera now lies in seventh position, only 1:18 down on race leader Igor Antón, who shares the top of the classification with Joaquin Rodriguez, both riders currently sitting on the same time.
The 34-year-old from Xacobeo-Galicia is riding in a similar fashion as in the past three years, having finished successively no lower than fifth overall during the last three editions of the Vuelta. It's a race he never had the oppportunity of doing before the professional team of his region, originally under the name of Karpin-Galicia, was created in 2007.
Mosquera took his first pro win in 2005 during stage three of the Tour of Rioja in the colours of Kaiku, the Basque team he joined after riding for Portuguese teams for six years.
This year, the slightly-framed Galician again collected consistent results with a third place overall at the Vuelta Castilla y Leon behind Alberto Contador and Antón, fourth overall at the Tour of Asturias and second overall at the Tour of Burgos behind Samuel Sanchez and ahead of Vincenzo Nibali.
"I've geared up for the Vuelta as well as I wanted," Mosquera told Cyclingnews. "I was a bit scared of some of the first stages because of their steep finale but I coped pretty well with the terrain. It's been a difficult beginning of the three weeks of racing. The long climbs are yet to come and they'll suit me better.
"My goal is simple: I want to improve the result I got last year," the Spaniard continued. "That means to finish on the podium in Madrid but it's not an easy task, especially because there are a lot of contenders this year.
"I've seen Antón and Nibali very strong so far. Antón is a super climber and Nibali will do very well in the time trials. I think the first mountain stage in Andorra on Wednesday will create significant differences."
Mosquera can rely on a team that has very good climbers. Serafin Martinez and Gonzalo Rabuñal are second and third respectively behind David Moncoutié in the king of the mountains classification. David Garcia Dapena and Gustavo Cesar Veloso, who respectively won a stage at the Vuelta two and one year ago also look in good condition.
"We have a great faith in Ezequiel," said the winner of the 2008 Tour of Turkey, Garcia Dapena.
"We have three goals," explained directeur sportif Alvaro Pino. "One is to win a stage. Another one is to help Mosquera finish on the podium. The third one is to get the king of mountain classification. We wouldn't like to get close to everything and not get anything at the end."