Although lacking the raw power of Alexandre Vinokourov, José Ángel Gómez Marchante was the only rider able to stay with him and team-mate Andrey Kashechkin on yesterday's climb of Alto de Monachil.
However, in true Vinokourov style, the Kazahstani shot away on the long descent into Granada, and Gómez Marchante ended up finishing in the group containing Kashechkin and race leader Alejandro Valverde. As a result, the Spaniard keeps his fifth place overall, but at more than two minutes behind the fourth place of Kashechkin, he'll need to be on the offensive today to have any hope of standing on the podium in Madrid this Sunday.
Saunier Duval-Prodir directeur sportif Joxean Matxin Fernández concedes the difficulty of this possibility, but is nonetheless optimistic about David Millar taking a second time trial victory or Francisco José Ventoso winning the final bunch gallop into Madrid.
"I believe the team still have a lot to show in this Vuelta," said Matxin Fernández. "It would be great to have Gómez Marchante on the podium, but I think this is quite difficult. However, his performance has been great. On the other hand, we can still grab a stage victory on Saturday with Millar [in the time trial] or on Sunday with Ventoso. If this happens, our Vuelta will have been great."