Heras back on top
On the queen stage of this year's Vuelta a España, Liberty Seguros' Roberto Heras took control of the race and smashed Denis Menchov's lead to pieces. In the last true mountain stage, the three-time Vuelta winner led a surprise attack on the penultimate climb of the Cat. 1 Alto de la Colladiella, before consolidating his advantage on the road to Valgrande Pajares, catching all of his rivals off-guard, including Menchov.
Heras attacked some 55 kilometres from the finish line; then, in one frightening downhill run, he bridged up to his teammates in the breakaway, who helped him amass a substantial lead over the Russian, left to struggle alone. The Spaniard then finished off proceedings on the final climb to Pajares, where Menchov's forces just weren't sufficient to limit his losses.
"The Colladiella is a very difficult mountain and we knew it," said stage winner and golden jersey wearer Heras in the finish. "In strategic terms the stage went perfectly. I was conscious about the fact that I took great risks when I went downhill. But the point is that if you want something, you have to take your chances."
The 31 year-old now looks set for a fourth Vuelta victory. In the end, Menchov finished 5'17 adrift, and is now 4.30 behind on the overall classification - too much of a gap to bridge in the last time trial next Saturday, which is only 38.9 kilometres long. Team CSC's Carlos Sastre retained his third overall placing, but now sits just 20 seconds behind second-placed Menchov.