Valverde lands psychological blow

Alejandro Valverde is confident that he will now win the Vuelta after successfully marking the attacks of Alexandre Vinokourov and Carlos Sastre and putting time into his other rivals on stage 16.

"My performance today is a very important step ahead, especially from a psychological point of view because, of the three stages of mountain which remained before today, this was the one I considered the hardest and the one that I feared the most, more than the Pandera stage," said Valverde.

Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne's team-mates controlled the race early on and Oscar Pereiro placed himself in the main break of the day, which put pressure on the other teams to chase. On the second ascent of Calar Alto, Alejandro Valverde took advantage of the groundwork laid by his team-mates and easily matched the attacks of Carlos Sastre and Vinokourov.

"Vinokourov did what he had promised by attacking me, and he did it more than once, but I felt very good, which enabled me to answer the attacks of the Kazakh rider without difficulty ," said Valverde.

"Today like each day, I had the chance to rely on the phenomenal work carried out by my team-mates and I wish to take the opportunity to congratulate them once more. I did not suffer at all from the fall in temperature nor from the rain.

"Taking into account how I felt on today's stage, it goes without saying that I will approach the following ones with still a little more confidence. As for my rivals, a little less time in front of them to try to outdistance me, but I do not doubt that they will continue to attack."

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