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Rivals powerless to withstand Astana assault

The Caisse d'Epargne team

The Caisse d'Epargne team (Image credit: Unipublic)

Most of the mountains are behind the riders after Sunday's stage to Fuentes de Invierno, and the damage has been done by the Astana squad. With the two mountain top finishes this weekend, Alberto Contador not only took the race's golden leader's jersey, but set his rivals back to a nearly insurmountable distance. With only his own Astana teammate Levi Leipheimer within striking distance, Contador's overall victory is nearly assured.

Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre limited his losses, but still fell a further 20 seconds behind Contador on a day which is likely his second to last chance to make up time on his younger compatriot. He not only faces few chances to make up the 3:41 deficit, but now has a new challenger in Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia), who stole 16 seconds on the final climb.

"In truth, I finished with just enough strength. I had more desire than strength, but it's good that I have gotten through another important day," Sastre admitted. "Today I want to especially congratulate Ezequiel Mosquera, a lad who last year did so well in the Tour of Spain and again today because he has tried to ensure a good position in the overall standings. What he has done today is commendable, because he rode intelligently, and it was good for him and his team."

"We have seen a very powerful Astana team, which has controlled the race with ease and strengthens its lead, both first and second in the overall standings, with more security for the forthcoming stages and the future of this Vuelta," he said.

Alejandro Valverde put his whole Caisse d'Epargne team on the front of the race to bring back the breakaway, but the captain could not find enough in reserve to pull of his goal of a stage win.

"We tried to go for the stage win and I want to thank all my team-mates of the Caisse d'Epargne for the extraordinary job they did and for having trusting me," Valverde said. "I would have liked to dedicate a second stage win to them in this Vuelta a España, but Mosquera's rhythm was very high and even if I was feeling good I was not able to resist.

"This morning in Oviedo I took the start thinking of a stage victory and also in the possibility of reaching the podium, but unfortunately it was not possible. I said before the start of the Vuelta that I was not able to predict which point I would be able to resist until, considering the heavy season I have already had, and today it is clear that I began to feel tired. Now we will try to recover because there are some nice stages left and we will try if we can win one of them."

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