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Alejandro Valverde takes a golden opportunity

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Valverde celebrates his win

Valverde celebrates his win (Image credit: AFP)
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Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) drives the break

Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) drives the break (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Liquigas leads the day

Liquigas leads the day (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Valverde celebrates his win

Valverde celebrates his win (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) sprints away from the others.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) sprints away from the others. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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A well deserved drink for the day's winner.

A well deserved drink for the day's winner. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Valverde wanted to share his joy with everybody.

Valverde wanted to share his joy with everybody. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The well-deserved podium kisses for Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).

The well-deserved podium kisses for Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Sastre at the sign-in

Sastre at the sign-in (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Bettini coming down the podium

Bettini coming down the podium (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Tom Boonen is thinking about a stage victory in the first week.

Tom Boonen is thinking about a stage victory in the first week. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Levi Leipheimer (Astana) and teammate Andreas Klöden talk tactics before the race.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) and teammate Andreas Klöden talk tactics before the race. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Boonen rides to the start

Boonen rides to the start (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador (Astana) wants to win the whole race and not juts a stage

Alberto Contador (Astana) wants to win the whole race and not juts a stage (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) stretching before the start

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) stretching before the start (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) had a stage victory in mind.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) had a stage victory in mind. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Pozzato (l) and Paolo Bettini share some pre-race thoughts.

Pozzato (l) and Paolo Bettini share some pre-race thoughts. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne, left) with his fearless captain, Alejandro Valverde.

Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne, left) with his fearless captain, Alejandro Valverde. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The bunch waits for the start

The bunch waits for the start (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) deep in thought

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) deep in thought (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) uses the Vuelta as Worlds preparation.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) uses the Vuelta as Worlds preparation. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) ready to roll

Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) ready to roll (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Erik Zabel all smiles before the start as racing the Vuelta instead of the Deutschland Tour will mean a quieter race for him, media wise.

Erik Zabel all smiles before the start as racing the Vuelta instead of the Deutschland Tour will mean a quieter race for him, media wise. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) looks towards the start line

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) looks towards the start line (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) makes last adjustments to his eye wear.

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) makes last adjustments to his eye wear. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre) wants to close out the season in style.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) wants to close out the season in style. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Liquigas is a multi-coloured team

Liquigas is a multi-coloured team (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) rides towards the start to defend his jersey.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) rides towards the start to defend his jersey. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Thanks to the prologue win Liquigas holds all the jerseys.

Thanks to the prologue win Liquigas holds all the jerseys. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Pozzato says hi to Valverde before the start.

Pozzato says hi to Valverde before the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The bunch ready to kick off stage two.

The bunch ready to kick off stage two. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) and Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) waiting for the whistle

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) and Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) waiting for the whistle (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) during his break attempt

Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) during his break attempt (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) during his solo break

Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) during his solo break (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Martínez tried to stay away but was caught before the line.

Martínez tried to stay away but was caught before the line. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) out of the saddle

Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) out of the saddle (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Liquigas -led bunch

The Liquigas -led bunch (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Bennati and Pozzato in white and yellow, respectively

Bennati and Pozzato in white and yellow, respectively (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Pozzato storms by

Pozzato storms by (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Valverde jumps on the left

Valverde jumps on the left (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ricardo Serrano (Tinkoff Credit Systems) tries to get into the slipstream but comes up short.

Ricardo Serrano (Tinkoff Credit Systems) tries to get into the slipstream but comes up short. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Valverde continues to hold the lead...

Valverde continues to hold the lead... (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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... and realises before the line that his gutsy jump paid off.

... and realises before the line that his gutsy jump paid off. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Valverde celebrates the win.

Valverde celebrates the win. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) starts the Tour of Spain like he did start the Tour de France.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) starts the Tour of Spain like he did start the Tour de France. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) grimaces as the last part of the race was very fast.

Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) grimaces as the last part of the race was very fast. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Bettini was beaten and the Italian was disappointed that he couldn't pull off the win in a finish that should have suited him well.

Bettini was beaten and the Italian was disappointed that he couldn't pull off the win in a finish that should have suited him well. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A sweaty Boonen was happy to be in the finish despite not having won.

A sweaty Boonen was happy to be in the finish despite not having won. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Contador thought the race was very nervous today

Contador thought the race was very nervous today (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Pozzato lost the jersey but not his tattoo

Pozzato lost the jersey but not his tattoo (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Caisse celebrates

Caisse celebrates (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Valverde was happy that wife and son were waiting at the finish.

Valverde was happy that wife and son were waiting at the finish. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Valverde on the podium

Valverde on the podium (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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His win gave Valverde the golden jersey also

His win gave Valverde the golden jersey also (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Valverde distanced everyone including Rebellin.

Valverde distanced everyone including Rebellin. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Valverde on the podium

Valverde on the podium (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Valverde gets yellow.

Valverde gets yellow. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton organises itself.

The peloton organises itself. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) drives the break with Cyril Lemoine (Crédit Agricole), Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) in tow.

Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) drives the break with Cyril Lemoine (Crédit Agricole), Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) in tow. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Liquigas drives the day.

Liquigas drives the day. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) rides in the peloton.

German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) rides in the peloton. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)

Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne) tries his luck.

Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne) tries his luck. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Race leader Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) share a word.

Race leader Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) share a word. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Sprawling landscape in southern Spain.

Sprawling landscape in southern Spain. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Alberto Contador (Astana) looks calm before the finale.

Alberto Contador (Astana) looks calm before the finale. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) drives the two-man move with Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in the final kilometres.

Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) drives the two-man move with Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in the final kilometres. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) wins stage two of the 63rd Vuelta a España.

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) wins stage two of the 63rd Vuelta a España. (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Spain's Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) took the overall lead after winning stage two.

Spain's Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) took the overall lead after winning stage two. (Image credit: Unipublic)

Spanish Champion's Tour-like move garners race lead

In an action similar to day one of the Tour de France, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde of Team Caisse d'Epargne moved into the Vuelta a España race leadership with a powerful and winning dash in the closing metres of stage two. The early surge of team-mate Joaquím Rodríguez as the race approached the line in Jaén allowed Spanish Champion Valverde to profit with a counter-move that could not be answered by Italians Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) or Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) – second and third. Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto) finished fourth and overnight race leader, Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), finished fifth.

"I was helped by the confidence I gained in the Tour," said Valverde. "The team has worked phenomenally. Joaquím Rodríguez did great work; he played his trick and punished the others."

Unlike this year's Tour de France, the Vuelta offers time bonuses on the line for the race winner. Valverde, with his first place, scored a 20-second cut to his overall time. He started the day nine seconds behind race leader Pozzato and finished in gold, 13 seconds ahead.

His Spanish team smelled the opportunity in the final kilometres of a rather unorganised race finale. "Oscar Freire told me it was an arrival that favoured me," revealed Valverde. His ace, Rodríguez, moved to the fore and fired on the sprinters in the final 1200 metres. His move almost lasted, but opportunists brought back his attack, such as Tinkoff Credit Systems' Riccardo Serrano. As the others caught his move, near 300 metres, Valverde launched a textbook counter that went unanswered.

"Bennati pulled hard and then the attack by Serrano," he said of Rodríguez's capture.

The only threat came from the Italians, who are racing for wins and a spot on the Italian squadra azzurra for the upcoming World Championship. Two-time World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) aided in Rodríguez's capture while two likely national candidates, Rebellin and Ballan, zoomed to the line behind Valverde for a podium finish. 'Pippo' Pozzato lost his overall race lead and finished fifth.

Pozzato, clad in the leader's maillot oro, had his Liquigas team working hard all day to control the escapes. It pulled the peloton along when the first escape formed almost at kilometre zero. Spaniards Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) moved off the front first and, later, duo Frenchman Cyril Lemoine (Crédit Agricole) and Russian Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) joined them. The four men gained a maximum lead of 4'06" by kilometre 69.

Sensing danger, Martínez moved out on his own at 42 kilometres remaining. Rosendo joined him a few kilometres later. The peloton succeeded in controlling both escape duos, but did not count of the flurry of counter-escapes in the closing kilometres. There was first a move by Mauricio Ardila Cano (Rabobank) and Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne) at 20 kilometres to go. It faded, but another move followed. Irishman Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole) and David Moncoutié (Cofidis) formed a subsequent move. The duo, joined by five others, still did not succeed. The race was all together with five kilometres of racing left.

Both Liquigas – for Daniele Bennati and Pozzato – and Quick Step – Tom Boonen – were driving the pace to the line. The plan for a sprint fell apart as the bunch compressed in the final three kilometres. The game fell into the hands of Caisse d'Epargne's Valverde. Rodríguez was able to position himself perfectly to give his captain the win and overall race lead. His last win in the Vuelta came almost two years ago to the day, stage seven to Ponferrada, September 1.

"We have earned a stage and taken the leadership, the objective is met. ... Everything from here on in will be all the better," said Valverde.

The win not only adds to his Tour de France coup, but his recent win in the San Sebastián and big spring wins in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Dauphiné Libéré.

Rosendo took the mountains lead for his efforts in the escape. The rider from the Spanish Professional Continental team was the first rider over the first categorised climb of the 63rd Vuelta a España. Martínez, by going solo when he did, picked up the overall in the combination competition.

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