Team CSC's Carlos Sastre's fifth place on stage 16 has helped him to stay within striking distance of the lead, despite being dropped on the final climb ascent to Calar Alto.
Sastre initially split the group containing the Vuelta favourites, which resulted in Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) being dropped and thereby losing his overall second place, but the other main contenders, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) managed to drop Sastre in turn.
Sastre almost bridged the gap during the final kilometres towards Calar Alto but is now 1.42 behind Valverde. "It was a fantastic stage. Unfortunately Carlos lacked the last bit of strength," said directeur sportif Kim Andersen after the stage. "But having said that, he deserves all the credit in the world for his courage.
"Bottom line is, we had a good result today and we're closer to the overall second place. Now the final stages will decide the podium. The team did a tremendous job for Carlos today, everybody showed great team spirit."