By Shane Stokes in Alto de La Cobertoria
Following stage victories on two successive days, Alexandre Vinokourov is now up to 5th overall in the Vuelta, 1’38 back. He has appeared to be growing in strength as this race has progressed, something he agreed could be related to his lack competition in the Tour de France.
"It is true, I haven’t done much racing," he said at the post-race press conference. "Before the Vuelta I had just 30 days of racing in my legs so I am fresh and my form is building."
By coincidence or otherwise, his main threat is also in a similar situation due to the broken collarbone injury he received in the Tour. "Valverde is someone I regard as perhaps my biggest rival. He missed out on the Tour so he is fresh and motivated. I think he is a big favourite."
Vinokourov is a strong time trialist and was asked if he thought that he can take the maillot oro in the race against the clock on stage 14. "The time trial is not really long enough to get much time back," he replied, "but there are two weeks to go. We will see what happens in the time trial, I will give my maximum there.
"Andrey (Kashechkin) is also riding well and is strong in the time trials. It is better to have two leaders for now, we will see how things work out a little later in the race."
Vinokourov was also asked if he had changed his mind, having stated earlier in the race that his main goal here was to prepare for the world championships. "To win either the Vuelta or the worlds will be difficult. First I will do my best here and then afterwards I will think about the world championships."