Double-teamwork pays off for Vino as Valverde moves into lead
A two man attack by Astana teammates Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin with 6 km to go in today's difficult ninth stage ended in another victory for Vino, who beat Alejandro Valverde by 16 seconds on top of the Alto de La Cobertoria. But Valverde took over the overall lead in the Vuelta as Janez Brajkovic (Discovery) had to let go on the final climb and lost 2'14. Kashechkin held on for third in the stage at 21 seconds, moving himself into third overall.
The 207 stage, which featured six categorised climbs, four of which were category one or higher, got off to a very attacking start. After the first sprint at km 29, a group of 15 got clear with Igor Anton and Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Arroyo, Joan Horrach and Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Carlos Barredo (Astana Team), Mauricio Ardila and Pieter Weening (Rabobank), José Miguel Elias and and Ángel Vallejo (Relax-Gam), Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), Lars Ytting Bak (Team CSC), Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel), Dario David Cioni (Liquigas), and Ángel Gómez Gómez (Saunier Duval). They got no more than 3'40 as Anton was relatively well placed on the general classification, and it was more or less all together by the start of the last climb.
Caisse d'Epargne set the early tempo before Vinokourov accelerated with Kashechkin on his wheel with 6 km to go. The pair opened up a maximum gap of 23 seconds as the group behind reduced to just Valverde, Di Luca, Sastre and Gomez Marchante. Eventually Valverde tried to close the gap on his own, but ran out of legs and Vino stayed away to win his second consecutive stage.