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Vuelta Stage 15: Cobo takes the leader's jersey on the Angliru as Wiggins flags

Spaniard's attack puts rivals in trouble, Chris Froome holds on to remain second overall...

Juan Jose Cobo of Geox-TMC is the new leader of the Vuelta, the 30 year old Spaniard attacking on the fearsome climb of the Angliru this afternoon to take the red jersey from Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins. The Briton finished fifth, 1 minute 20 seconds down on the Spaniard, and now lies 3rd on GC, 46 seconds behind. Wouter Poels of Vacansoleil-DCM was second, crossing the line just ahead of Denis Menchov and Chris Froome, who remains second overall, 20 seconds down on Cobo, and may well now become the focus of Team Sky's efforts to win its first Grand Tour.

Introduced to the Vuelta in 1999 and only included three times since then, most recently in 2008 when Alberto Contador won on his way to overall victory in Madrid, the Angliru is, alongside Mont Ventoux in France and the Zoncolan in Italy, arguably the most feared climb of cycling’s three Grand Tours.

In some sections, the gradient goes above 20 per cent, and it was on the last of those, less than 3 kilometres from the end of the 12.5 kilometre ascent, that Wiggins hit difficulties, zig-zagging across the road, his troubles not eased by the riders being hemmed in by some of the estimated 100,000 fans on the climb today, leaving them little room to manoeuvre.

Ahead of the ascent of the Angliru, Vincenzo-Nibali’s Liquigas-Cannondale team had forced the pace at the front of the main group as it descended from the summit of the Category 1 Alto del Cordal, which had been crested first by mountains classification leader David Moncoutié of Cofidis, who is looking to win the polka dot jersey for the fourth year running.

Among the riders who lost contact with the main GC group on that fast descent were Wiggins and Froome, and while the Team Sky pair had rejoined it by the time the ascent of the Angliru started, they had needed to expend some energy to do so, the last thing they needed as they began the final climb.

Liquigas, led by the 21-year-old Peter Sagan, winner of two stages so far in this year’s Vuelta, were still at the front of the peloton on the early part of the fabled ascent, but their efforts would be in vain as defending champion Nibali had another day to forget. Instead, Geox-TMC’s Carlos Sastre was the first man to attack.

The 2008 Tour de France winner, whose late brother in law, Jose Maria ‘Chava’ Jiminez, became in 1999 the first man to win a Vuelta stage on the Angliru, was not riding for himself, however, with team mate Cobo having moved up to fourth overall yesterday.

As Sastre passed under the 7 kilometres to go banner, with the gradient heading up towards 22 per cent, it was another Spanish rider who had come into this year’s race with high hopes who attacked and bridged across to Sastre, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Igor Anton.

Behind, gaps were starting to show in the GC group, with Cobo attacking and putting distance between himself and Wiggins, who still had Froome for company in what was now a very select group, the Spaniard bridging across to Anton and immediately passing him.

Froome, at the front of the red jersey group, which also contained Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez, Poels of Vacansoleil and Cobo’s team mate, Menchov, looked calm as he sought to keep Cobo within sight, the Geox-TMC man enjoying an advantage of nearly a quarter of a minute as he passed under the 5 kilometre to go banner.

The Spaniard doubled that advantage over the next kilometre, while behind him Froome and Wiggins continued to seek to ride at their own tempo, with the red jersey himself coming to the front until that last steep section resulted in him losing the overall lead.

Earlier in the stage, a three man breakaway had managed to get away comprising Simon Geschke of Skil-Shimano, Garmin-Cervelo’s Andrew Talansky, and Dmitri Champino from AG2R.

That trio still led the race over the Category 2 Alto de Tenebredo, but they were caught on the Alto del Cordal as Moncoutié went on the attack to claim the maximum points on offer on that ascent.

Vuelta Stage 15 result 
1  COBO, Juan José           Geox-TMC               4h 01' 56''
2  POELS, Wouter             Vacansoleil-DCM             + 48''
3  MENCHOV, Denis            Geox-TMC                    + 48''
4  FROOME, Christopher       Team Sky                    + 48''
5  WIGGINS, Bradley          Team Sky                 + 1' 21''
6  ANTON, Igor               Euskaltel-Euskadi        + 1' 21''
7  RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin        Katusha                  + 1' 35''
8  MONFORT, Maxime           Leopard Trek             + 1' 35''
9  MOLLEMA, Bauke            Rabobank                 + 1' 35''
10 LAGUTIN, Sergey           Vacansoleil-DCM          + 1' 35''
11 MARTIN, Daniel            Garmin-Cervelo           + 1' 41''
12 DUARTE, Fabio Andrés      Geox-TMC                 + 1' 52''
13 NIEVE, Mikel              Euskaltel-Euskadi        + 2' 02''
14 VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen    Omega Pharma-Lotto       + 2' 17''
15 NIBALI, Vincenzo          Liquigas-Cannondale      + 2' 37''
16 FUGLSANG, Jakob           Leopard Trek             + 2' 43''
17 MORENO, Daniel            Katusha                  + 2' 43''
18 ZAUGG, Oliver             Leopard Trek             + 2' 43''
19 PARDILLA, Sergio          Movistar                 + 3' 01''
20 TXURRUKA, Amets           Euskaltel-Euskadi        + 3' 22''

Vuelta Overall Standings after Stage 15 
1  COBO, Juan José           Geox-TMC              59h 57' 16''
2  FROOME, Christopher       Team Sky                    + 20''
3  WIGGINS, Bradley          Team Sky                    + 46''
4  MOLLEMA, Bauke            Rabobank                 + 1' 36''
5  MONFORT, Maxime           Leopard Trek             + 2' 37''
6  MENCHOV, Denis            Geox-TMC                 + 3' 01''
7  FUGLSANG, Jakob           Leopard Trek             + 3' 06''
8  NIBALI, Vincenzo          Liquigas-Canondale       + 3' 27''
9  VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen    Omega Pharma-Lotto       + 3' 58''
10 POELS, Wouter             Vacansoleil-DCM          + 4' 13''

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Alan Tullett | 12 years ago

Will be interesting to see if Froome is given some licence to attack on 17.

Alan Tullett | 12 years ago

It looked like he had quite a big gear or are you suggesting there was something else that shall remain nameless?!

sneakerfrfeak | 12 years ago

Is Cobo really that good? he didn't even look like he was really suffering at all (compared to the chasing group). History has taught me to suspicious of anybody that can just ride away on a climb like that. Maybe it was down to better gear selection?

stewieatb | 12 years ago

Maybe he could, but attacking your team leader is rarely a good idea... Unless you mean, would Froome be better off riding for GC with a different team? Yes, certainly.

dave atkinson | 12 years ago

I wonder if Froome would have been able to go after Cobo earlier if he hadn't had Wiggo to look out for? Could he have been in red tonight? thoughts?

simoncon | 12 years ago

Totally agree. Wiggins and Froome, climbing a seriously steep mountain, not a bad effort for a supposedly not out and out climber. I think this is far from over, time bonuses etc. The question can Geox control for a week. 20 secs and 46 sec behind, is very little, especially guys that can time trial well. Maybe we will get a split sometime in the next week, and for sure Wiggo or Froome will be the right side of that.

Lets just wait and see, but a very sterling effort by the sky guys.

Alan Tullett | 12 years ago

Geox have had the two stages that suit them, now Sky have to choose a stage to time trial against the Geox team. Cobo was 2 and 1:30 down on Wiggins and Froome on stage 10, Menchov about 40 secs better than Cobo. With time bonuses on offer and only one short uphill finish to come (17), there's a lot to play for. Geox got to defend the red now, so Sky can sit back a bit. When the dust has settled don't think Sky will be too unhappy with what has happened. Nibali was the big loser of the last 2 days, not Wiggins or Sky.

Simon_MacMichael | 12 years ago

Don't get us wrong, we're not having a go at Wiggo, but I think it's fair to say he flagged towards the top of the climb, as in he got a bit tired... it's not as though we said he imploded or anything.

It's a fantastic achievement for him to have done what he has done so far in this race, and who knows what might happen over the next week?

Understand the point about only 4 riders being faster than him today... but when it's the last big summit finish of the race, and one of those 4 takes the race lead, finishing ahead of the other 175-odd others is to some extent besides the point.

The story of today's stage is that Cobo attacked and won, and Wiggins faded at the end, hence the headline.

seanieh66 | 12 years ago

Agreed and he still has a week!

shot18 | 12 years ago

Yes Wiggins lost a bit of time... but ONLY to 4 other riders. How does that constitute "flags". Come on - a bit of perspective... yes he's lost the leaders jersey, yes he wasn't the strongest rider today... but he rode better than 175 others!!

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