Juan Jose Cobo (Fuji-Servetto) put in a daring attack today just two kilometers from the line on the fourth and hardest stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon to take the win over the firm grip of the Astana-controlled peloton.
A breakaway took a while to form due to the high pace of the initial racing, but eventually Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing), Jorge Aranza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Xavier Tondo (Andalucía-CajaSur), Fran Pérez (Caisse d’Epargne), and David Bernabeu (Barbot) broke away and built up a lead of barely a minute.
Astana was not letting anything go today.
On the last climb of the day, Astana remained on the front, with four of their riders setting the pace for race leader Levi Leipheimer.
A flurry of attacks put the Astana men under fire,, however, the most threatening being third-placed David Zabriskie (Garmin), only 22 seconds behind overall.
After pledging to work for Leipheimer rather than a third overall victory, Alberto Contador backed up his promise today and reeled back Zabriskie and the rest of the breakaway, setting a blistering pace up the category-one ascent, and whittling the peloton down to just a handful of riders.
Juan Jose Cobo, not being a threat to the overall lead, was finally able to attack the peloton with two kilometers to go and Contador let him have his way. Cobo won the stage eight seconds in front of the peloton.
Denis Menchov (Rabobank), another GC threat, attacked the peloton at the last second but only worked up a one second advantage, to take second place on the day. Javier Moreno (Andalucia-Cajasur) came in third.
Only one more day separates Leipeheimer from an overall victory. It is a fairly flat stage with an uphill finish, a stage likely suited to yesterday's stage winner, Alejandro Valverde.