Brajkovic new leader after Valverde wins on El Morredero
22 year-old Slovenian talent Janez Brajkovic has ridden into the overall lead of the Vuelta after finishing fourth in the second mountain stage to Alto de El Morredero. Brajkovic was just 7 seconds behind winner Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), who saved his best until last and unleashed a powerful kick to overhaul Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) in the final 100m to win. Second place in the stage went to Carlos Sastre, who is now in third on GC at 10 seconds behind Brajkovic.
The stage was marked by a three man breakaway consisting of Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole), David Loosli (Lampre) and Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis). The trio was able to gain over 12 minutes at one stage, but the peloton quickly reeled all but Loosli in on the last climb. The Swiss rider held on until 2 km to go, when Vinokourov and Brajkovic attacked the Valverde group. Vinokourov then went at 1 km to go, but was unable to resist Valverde's sprint.
"I want to thank all my teammates," declared Alejandro Valverde at the top of El Morredero. "They remained at my side all the day and what they did was really phenomenal work, to help me to obtain that victory which I want to dedicate to them. I really feel good to face the next stages. Now it will be important to recover well for the stage of Sunday that I consider as the queen stage of this Tour of Spain.
"My rivals for the final victory are those which I had mentioned after the stage of La Covatilla but after what we could see today we also have to add to the list Iban Mayo, who I saw very good all day, as well as Alexandre Vinokourov, who we pushed aside a little too early. As for Brajkovic, I knew him and his performance does not surprise me. He will be a dangerous rival, also because he is excellent in the time trials."