Surprise Winner Starts Off "Vuelta a Castilla Y Leon"

James ThompsonCorrespondent IMarch 23, 2009

Joaquin Sobrino of the small Burgos Monumental team, based in the Castilla y Leon province of Spain, produced a surprising sprint victory today to show off his team's colors in their home province's race.

The Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, a five-day stage race in Spain, has risen in popularity in the past few years, now becoming a proving ground for several big names in cycling to get a quality stage race under their belts as they prepare for bigger goals.

That does not mean, however, that the big guns of cycling will be taking it easy. None other than Alberto Contador (Astana) has won the last two editions of this race. Although he has told the press that a win or loss here is not the be-all and end-all of his season, you can bet he will be gunning for a third victory.

Trying to disrupt his party, however, will be other Tour contenders, such as Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), and Tour champion Carlos Sastre (Cervelo). 

Starting off today's relatively flat stage was a breakaway of four, including Raul Santamarta (Burgos Monumental), Mikel Ilundain (Orbea), José López (Andalucia-CajaSur), and Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing).

Mancebo was a huge threat to the peloton. At the Tour of California last month, he won the first stage by going on a daring, day-long breakaway and took the yellow jersey off of Levi Leipheimer's back. Mancebo has also won two editions of this race in the past.

Astana and Caisse d'Epargne began the chase in earnest to dissolve Mancebo's lead of six minutes. Then the sprint teams took over to set it up for the usual bunch sprint at the end of a flat stage.

However, there was nothing usual about the outcome of this sprint.

A complete newcomer to the top of the podium, Sobrino (Burgos Monumental) took the win ahead of David Vitoria (Rock Racing) and José Joaquín Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne), two other relatively quiet sprinters.

To be fair, though, this is not much of a race for the big-name sprinters, coming only one day after the epic Milano-Sanremo, in which they all participated.

It will be Tuesday's 28-kilometer time trial that will bring out the riders who want the overall title for themselves.

Unfortunately for today's winner, as VeloNews put it, "Very few people will be talking about the biggest win of Joaquín Sobrino’s career."

Making the front page in the news was Lance Armstrong (Astana), who crashed in the early part of the stage and was taken away to the hospital with a broken collarbone. 

Astana representatives have said that his spring campaign plans, including a run at the top step of the Giro d'Italia podium, look very much threatened.