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Golden performance by Menchov

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Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank)

Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) (Image credit: AFP)
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Spain's Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) is exhausted at the end of the 10th stage

Spain's Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) is exhausted at the end of the 10th stage (Image credit: AFP)
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Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank)

Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) (Image credit: AFP)
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Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) gives a victory salute.

Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) gives a victory salute. (Image credit: AFP)
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Menchov (Rabobank) puts on the leaders jersey.

Menchov (Rabobank) puts on the leaders jersey. (Image credit: AFP)
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Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) celebrates on the podium after winning.

Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) celebrates on the podium after winning. (Image credit: AFP)
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Spain's Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) is exhausted at the end of the 10th stage

Spain's Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) is exhausted at the end of the 10th stage (Image credit: AFP)
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Menchov (Rabobank) waves to fans before the 10th stage.

Menchov (Rabobank) waves to fans before the 10th stage. (Image credit: AFP)
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The peloton winds its way down through the Spanish mountain ranges.

The peloton winds its way down through the Spanish mountain ranges. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Carlos Barredo (Quickstep - Innergetic) gasping for breath after the stage.

Carlos Barredo (Quickstep - Innergetic) gasping for breath after the stage. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) leads Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r Prévoyance) in a last ditch attack to win the stage.

Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) leads Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r Prévoyance) in a last ditch attack to win the stage. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The early break of the day included world champion Bettini and Damiano Cunego.

The early break of the day included world champion Bettini and Damiano Cunego. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The peloton made their way through some beautiful country today.

The peloton made their way through some beautiful country today. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Team CSC were active on the front, they wanted the win today.

Team CSC were active on the front, they wanted the win today. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The remnants of the early break.

The remnants of the early break. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Denis Menchov wins the stage from Cadel Evans (Predictor - Lotto) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel - Euskadi).

Denis Menchov wins the stage from Cadel Evans (Predictor - Lotto) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel - Euskadi). (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Rabobank lead the peloton for much of the day, here with Marc De Maar and Theo Eltink.

Rabobank lead the peloton for much of the day, here with Marc De Maar and Theo Eltink. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Sastre lead the attacks on the final climb.

Sastre lead the attacks on the final climb. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Sastre put in 2 attacks in the final 2km but could not shake the rest of the group.

Sastre put in 2 attacks in the final 2km but could not shake the rest of the group. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The last 2 remaining riders from the early break, Turpin and Van Goolen.

The last 2 remaining riders from the early break, Turpin and Van Goolen. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Van Goolen lauches his attack from the early break.

Van Goolen lauches his attack from the early break. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne) leads Mario Aerts (Predictor-Lotto) on an attack.

Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne) leads Mario Aerts (Predictor-Lotto) on an attack. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) wins.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) wins. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) finishes.

Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) finishes. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) took the stage honours.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) took the stage honours. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Overall leader Denis Menchov (Rabobank) on the podium.

Overall leader Denis Menchov (Rabobank) on the podium. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Golden day. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) retains overall lead.

Golden day. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) retains overall lead. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The lead group hits the top of the climb.

The lead group hits the top of the climb. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) looked good.

Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) looked good. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oliver Zaugg (Gerolsteiner) is showing well in the 2007 Vuelta.

Oliver Zaugg (Gerolsteiner) is showing well in the 2007 Vuelta. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Carlos Barredo (Quick.Step - Innergetic) is on good form.

Carlos Barredo (Quick.Step - Innergetic) is on good form. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) had a hard day.

Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) had a hard day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas)

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The leaders charge up the Arcalís.

The leaders charge up the Arcalís. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Up the Arcalís.

Up the Arcalís. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The riders head up the Arcalís.

The riders head up the Arcalís. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) had to drop out of the escape group.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) had to drop out of the escape group. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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One kilometre to go.

One kilometre to go. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step - Innergetic) was in the escape for the first part of the day.

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step - Innergetic) was in the escape for the first part of the day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) thinking of the sprint stages to come.

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) thinking of the sprint stages to come. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The gruppetto on its way up.

The gruppetto on its way up. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) after the hard day.

Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) after the hard day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Carlos Barredo (Quick.Step - Innergetic) rode well.

Carlos Barredo (Quick.Step - Innergetic) rode well. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) cools off.

Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) cools off. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile) was in the escape for most of the day.

Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile) was in the escape for most of the day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) had a disappointing day.

José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) had a disappointing day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step - Innergetic) dressed to kill in the points jersey.

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step - Innergetic) dressed to kill in the points jersey. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Tom Boonen (Quick.Step - Innergetic) after a demanding day.

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step - Innergetic) after a demanding day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

Russian continues control of race with stage win

Denis Menchov put a golden stamp on the Vuelta a España leading into its first rest day. Clad in the maillot oro of race leader, the 29 year-old Russian of Team Rabobank won the stage to the top of Arcalís ahead of Australian Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) and Spaniard Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

"No, I think it's not that way," said Menchov answering a question about whether he was aided by Piepoli in the finale. "Truly, we didn't talk about anything for today. Leo always rides this way; he tried to change the tempo many times. I followed him just in case, to see if someone stays behind. Leo tried to put a strong rhythm."

"Today it was difficult to jump out of the group because the wind was against us," said Menchov.

Only Jurgen Van Goolen (Discovery Channel) and Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r Prévoyance) were left from a large, early escape as the race blasted up the 15 kilometre assent of Arcalís. Once the early escapees, including a last-ditch move by Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas), were caught at three kilometres to go, it was Team CSC's Carlos Sastre's turn to go.

The Spaniard appeared to be fading early on, but he was the only general classification rider to threaten the race lead of Menchov. Sastre put in his first serious dig at nearly three kilometres remaining, but the crafty Menchov was right on the wheel of his rival. The move by Sastre put everyone on the rivet and thinned the lead group. When he eased it was down to only seven men, with Menchov, Evans, Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne), Beltrán, Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

Sastre did not give up; he threw two hard punches at two kilometres remaining. The jabs bought out the animal in Menchov. The Rabobank rider resisted the resurgence and subsequent attacks of Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

"I think what he [Piepoli] did was shameful," Sastre took aim at Piepoli's tactics. "It could have been a much nicer stage but this kind of... . We can not call it alliances. They are 'buys' in your face. These kind of things [make] dirty races; I think it's not good. Every rider has responsibility of his actions."

He was happy with CSC's performance. "I am glad because the team did try. We tried to break the race. There was a lot of wind blowing against us. It was very hard. We came to the Vuelta to fight."

"I agreed with Carlos," said Beltrán. "They hurt me a lot. I understand there are always alliances. Yesterday, he [Menchov] let Piepoli win the stage and it's logical than today he [Piepoli] helped him [Menchov]. This doesn't help the show. I think that I was the one most damaged."

Once he smelled the finish line, Menchov could not be contained. Evans' charge up the right side of the road only resulted in second, while Sammy Sánchez' third place arrival left him gasping for air metres past the line.

"I didn't have the speed to win," said Sánchez of the sprint. "I was thinking I could win, and I truly suffered a lot in this climb. I knew how to dose my strengths. I tried to surprise, but in the end it was impossible with Menchov."

He was impressed with Antón's attacks. "He is a pure climber. ... He is able to surprise you any day; he attacks. The truth is that as a rider he is a 10, and as a person a 15. I share the hotel rooms with him and he is a great guy."

The first rest day will give a chance for Menchov's rivals to think of a new strategy. The rider who obtained a post-dated Vuelta win in 2005 appears positioned to win the Grand Tour outright.

CSC's determination to put Sastre into control spelled disaster for the early escape group of nearly 20, which included their own man, Christian Vande Velde. Belgian Van Goolen hit out of a thinned escape group with 11 kilometres remaining in a bid for his first professional win. He was immediately followed by Frenchman Turpin. Five kilometres later the duo's move was over when Beltrán bridged. The Spaniard first ditched Van Goolen, and then Turpin.

Stage nine winner Piepoli looked like the danger-man on the early gradients of Arcalís. The Italian who makes his home in Monaco was sitting pretty, and protected in CSC's next. He ruffled the feathers of the computer team when he flew at nine kilometres later. He was captured by CSC's Gusev before gaining an insurmountable amount of metres. He flew again at five kilometres remaining, but this time it was another Russian, race leader Menchov, who shut down the tiny climber.

Menchov's heavy handed tactics did not let up until he crossed the line for his fourth Vuelta stage win.

How it unfolded

Oscar Freire decided not to take the start in Benasque, so the remaining riders on the road totalled 176. The Spanish ride opted not to ride further in order to reach the World Championships in Stuttgart in the best possible condition.

The steady breakaway was made of 18 riders at kilometre 21: Hubert Dupont, Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r Prévoyance), Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), David López García, Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne), Van Goolen, Dionisio Galparsoro, Alan Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Santos Gonzalez (Karpin Galicia), Damiano Cunego, Marco Marzano (Lampre-Fondital), Franco Pellizotti, Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas), Mario Aerts (Predictor-Lotto), Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step - Innergetic), Ángel Gómez Gómez (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Christian Vande Velde (CSC) and Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile). Meanwhile, Ian McLeod (Française Des Jeux) left the race. The gap between the break and the peloton increased over the second mountain, and was 4'15".

The leaders maintained the advantage, and they were almost five minutes ahead of the big group at kilometre 100. 16 kilometres later, Janez Brajkovic (Discovery Channel) left the race. The Slovenian wore the golden jersey in two stages last year.

Puerto del Canto was the third climb of the day, and the breakaway had a four minute advantage at the summit (kilometre 140). The leaders preserved the distance after going down the mountain (kilometre 164).

When going through Andorra La Vella (kilometre 185 - 29 kilometres to go) the CSC riders sought to catch the break. The boys headed to the front and took command of the peloton. The gap was nailed back to less than two minutes. Shortly after, the gruppo started gobbling up the escapees.

There were just two riders who could resist: Turpin and Van Goolen. They led by 48 seconds with 10 kilometres to the end. The favourites were coming from behind. The duo's lead was down to 32 seconds by eight kilometres to go. Inside the thinning chase group was Beltrán. The Spaniard attacked, and he caught the duo with 6,000 metres to go.

"Triki" led the race solo with four kilometres to go, but it was only by 12 seconds. The gap was closed one kilometre later. With less than 3 kilometres remaining, Carlos Sastre attacked and caught Beltrán with Menchov and Piepoli on his wheel. The top group was made of Sastre, Beltrán, Menchov, Piepoli, Evans, Efimkin and Sánchez.

The last 200 metres formed an uphill sprint where Menchov ruled and crossed in first place. Neither Evans (second) or Sánchez (third) could catch him.

Stage 11 - September 12: Castellón - Algemesí, 191.3km

A transfer south and a well earned rest day will be followed by a stage suited for an escape group of 20. The two categorized altos that appear midway will solidify a small group that should be able to stay clear to fight out for the finale in Algemesí. The category 3 climb at Marianet (kilometre 58) and the category 3 climb at Chirivilla (kilometre 101) will 90 kilometres through Valencia with no major challenges.

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