Vuelta a España - Cobo tames the Angliru to take red
Sun, 04 Sep 12:47:00 2011
Spain's Juan Jose Cobo moved into the race lead of the Vuelta after taking a magnificent solo win atop the fearsome Alto de l'Angliru.
The 30-year-old Geox all-rounder won the short but sharp 142-km stage 15 in the Asturias mountains in northern Spain to move 20 seconds clear of Britain's Chris Froome (Team Sky) after overnight race leader Bradley Wiggins suffered on the precipitous slopes of the final deciding climb.
Attacking six kilometres from the finish, Cobo pulled away from a select chasing group that included both Wiggins and Froome, as well as the Spaniard's Russian team-mate Denis Menchov and the young Dutchman Wout Poels (Vacansoleil).
Red jersey Wiggins looked in control alongside his faithful lieutenant Froome, but when the narrow and winding road hit its infamous Cueña les Cabres 23.5-percent ramp, Cobo pulled further away as the British pair began to pedal squares.
Froome, just seven seconds down on his Sky team-mate in the overnight standings, managed to regain his composure and ride on with Menchov and Poels after Wiggins cracked inside the final 2km.
Breaking through the mist and fighting his way through the excited throngs of home supporters, Cobo won the stage ahead of Poels, who led Menchov and Froome over the line 48 seconds down on the Spaniard.
A demoralised Wiggins crossed the line alongside Spain's Igor Anton (Euskaltel), 1:21 down on the stage winner.
Following the second Vuelta stage win of his career and a useful 20-second time bonus, Cobo now leads the race by 20 seconds over Froome, while Wiggins drops to third, 46 seconds down.
Both Menchov and Poels rode into the top ten after their strong showing on the queen stage of this year's race. Two-time former Vuelta winner Menchov is now sixth, 3:01 down on his Geox team-mate, while the impressive Poels moves into tenth in his debut Vuelta, 4:13 adrift.
Another young Dutchman, Rabobank's Bauke Mollema, limited his losses to finish in a small group alongside green jersey Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) 14 seconds behind Wiggins. Mollema is now fourth in the GC, 1:36 off the summit.
Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) had another difficult day in the saddle, the Italian finishing 2:37 behind Cobo to drop to eight in the GC and end any chances of retaining his crown in Madrid next Sunday.
Three riders - Simon Geschke (Skil-Shimano), Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Cervelo) and Dimitri Champion (Ag2R) - broke clear of the bunch 50km into Sunday's stage, and despite holding a lead of more than five minutes going over the first Cat.2 climb of the day, they were reeled in by the bunch 26km from the finish on the Cat.1 Alto del Cordal.
French veteran David Moncoutie (Cofidis) crossed the summit in pole position to cement his lead in the king of the mountains competition that he has won for the past three years.
But Moncoutie, along with three fellow escapees, were swept up on the fast descent to the foot of the stage's showpiece final climb.
Boasting an average gradient of 10 percent and ramps as high as 23 percent, the Alto de l'Angliru is one of the most demanding in professional bike racing.
Cobo, a former Tour de France stage winner, looked incredibly composed as he juggernauted his way up towards the summit, leaving total devastation in his wake.
With the road so steep and the animated crowds so close, two TV motorcycles rolled over on their sides before the inevitable: Wiggins, so strong on gradual slow-building climbs, hit the wall on the toughest section of the brutal ascent.
Froome did his best to help his team leader ride out the storm, but was forced to focus on his own GC ambitions, leaving Wiggins to fend for himself for the first time in the race.
But it was too late - further up the road, the superhuman Cobo was well on his way to joining the illustrious list of Jose Maria Jimenez, Gilberto Simoni, Roberto Heras and Alberto Contador as winners atop the Angliru.
Having started the race quietly, Cobo has roared into life in the mountains. His win on Sunday follows a second place in stage 14 - and the Spaniard goes into the Vuelta's second rest day as the new race favourite.