Valverde heads home in Vuelta's gold

Alejandro Valverde wears Vuelta's gold jersey to hometown Murcia

Alejandro Valverde will wear the Vuelta a España's gold jersey today in stage 10, from Alicante to his hometown of Murcia, Spain. He's had the jersey nine times in his career, but it's the first time he will ride with it into Murcia.

"I am very happy to arrive home, in Murcia, with this golden jersey on my shoulders," said Valverde.

Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) took the race lead at the end of yesterday's stage to Xorret de Catí. He marked race leader Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) over the final climb and sprinted ahead to third place, 3.2 kilometres later.

Valverde took eight bonus seconds and moved into the lead by seven seconds over Australia's Evans. Dutchman Robert Gesink (Rabobank) is 36" back in third, Tom Danielson (Garmin) at 0:51 and Ivan Basso (Liquigas) at 0:53.

The Vuelta offers bonus seconds of 20, 12 and 8 to the top three finishers at each stage finish.

"I launched a very powerful sprint," said Valverde. "I told myself yesterday [Sunday] that it was useless to get the gold jersey too early, but considering my position, I had to sprint and take the time bonus."

Valverde indicated in the first week of the Vuelta that he saw Italy's Basso as his biggest rival in the race for overall victory. After nine stages the Italian sits in fifth place, 53 seconds behind Valverde. In spite of his current advantage, the Caisse d'Epargne captain will look for the right moment to attack or hope that Basso has a bad day, he said.

Today's stage 10 covers 171.2 kilometres, with the Cresta del Gallo coming 11.5 kilometres before the finish. Valverde should keep the overall lead at least until stage 12 to Alto de Velefique, a mountaintop finish of 13.3 kilometres

Valverde won stage two to Jaen and wore the Vuelta's leader's jersey for one day last year. He wore it for eight days and finished second overall in 2006.

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