After Sunday's time trial win, Denis Menchov (Rabobank) has maintained his lead despite Stage 10 going to Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears), who won ahead of Roberto Heras (Liberty-Würth) with Menchov glued to Heras' wheel in third. On a day for the climbers, Illes Balears' climbing sensation prevailed after a number of early breaks succumbed to the tough parcours before the protagonists up front fell by the wayside and allowed the big GC guns to take over.
It was virtually on from the gun on today's stage, with early attacks coming after 10km, when Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana), Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier Duval), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Angel Vicioso (Liberty), David Lopez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana), David Bernabeu (Comunidad Valenciana), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) and Aitor Osa (Illes Balears) went away gained an advantage of 1.20 after 29km.
This group was joined by another eight riders, including Quick Step's Rik Verbrugghe, Benjamin Noval (Discovery) and Michele Scarponi (Liberty). Aitor Osa, David Lopez and Rik Verbrugghe then broke from that bunch, later joined by Adolfo Garcia Quesada and then Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step). It was this small contingent that held off the GC heavyweights until the final kilometres, with Osa falling on the descent with 18 kilometres to go and breaking his collarbone.
Rabobank's Russian team leader never let Heras out of his sight during the day, and when the Liberty rider attacked with six kilometres to go Menchov wasn't taking any chances, staying with Heras to the finish. In the closing stages Heras, Menchov and Mancebo caught Quesada and Mercado, forming a small group that would fight it out for the stage victory. Mancebo managed to hold onto Heras and Menchov as they powered away from Quesada and Mercado to take the win at the ski station of Ordino-Arcalis.
Mancebo was understandably ecstatic with his stage win, saying at the finish, "I made a big effort to win and this victory is very important for me and for my team. This is the greatest victory in the world." Although isolated on the final climb, Menchov was pleased to hold onto the maillot oro, and was philosophical at the finish. "In the end, things went right... we saved [the jersey], so it was a very important day." the Russian rider said.
Tomorrow's stage is another huge day of climbing, with the Port del Canto (Category 1, 1730 m. above sea level, km 41), Coll de Bretui (Cat. 2, 1040 m., km 83), Coll de la Creu de Perves (Cat. 2, 1350 m., km 107.3), and Coll de la Espina (Cat. 2, 1410 m., km 140.3) sure to test out riders' legs before finishing at the ski station of Aramon Cerler (Cat. special, 1920 m.).
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