Carlos Barredo, one of the most aggressive riders around, finally bagged the grand tour stage win he’d been threatening when he won at Lagos de Covadonga.
The Spanish rider with the Quick Step team has often made bold attacks, notably during the Tour de France earlier this summer, but ended up empty handed.
This time he got it right, making sure he got in the big move that went clear early on and then attacking them on the climb.
Vincenzo Nibali and Joaquin Rodriguez kept a close eye on each other all the way up the climb and there was no change at the top of the overall standings, with the Italian keeping his red jersey.
The 15th stage of the Vuelta a Espana was completely flat until the climb of the famous Lagos Covadonga, scene of stage victories for Pedro Delgado, Luis Herrera, Robert Millar and Laurent Jalabert in the past.
The lead group of Barredo, Nico Sijmens (Cofidis), Pierre Cazaux (FDJ), Olivier Kaisen and Greg Van Avermaet (Omega Pharma) and Martin Velits (HTC-Columbia) gained almost nine minutes at one stage and was still more than seven minutes when they reached the foot of the 12-kilometre climb.
Barredo wasted no time in making his move, which was not a surprise considering he was by far the best climber of the leading group.
Back in the bunch, Liquigas were looking strong as they sought to protect Nibali – wearing the leader’s red jersey for the first time after Igor Anton crashed out yesterday. Anton had surgery on his broken elbow and was released from hospital today.
The Italian team hopes Nibali can deliver their second grand tour victory of the season, following Ivan Basso’s victory at the Giro d’Italia in May.
The rain and mist closed in the further they got up the climb but Barredo was always in control, keeping a solid lead over his breakaway companions. Although the group containing the overall contenders was closing in, he always had time on his side.
Behind Barredo, Carlos Sastre attacked and was joined by Ezequiel Mosquera, the Xacobeo Galicia rider, but Roman Kreuziger was alert to the danger for Liquigas.
Then Mosquera attacked again, trying to close the gap between himself and Nibali overall. It looked as if he was going to make decent gains but in the end it was only 11 seconds.
Nibali and Joaquin Rodriguez, split by just four seconds overall, finished together with Peter Velits of HTC-Columbia, who leapt up the standings to fourth overall.
Ireland’s Nicolas Roche was 12th, at 3-02 arriving with Frank Schleck and Carlos Sastre. The big loser was Xavier Tondo of Cervélo, who was another minute down and he slipped to fifth.
Monday’s 16th stage is an even tougher one, with two first-category climbs and a summit finish at Cotobello. There is a rest day on Tuesday.
Stage 15: Solares – Lagos de Covadonga
1. Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step in 4-32-09
2. Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis at 1-07
3. Martin Velits (Svk) HTC-Columbia at 1-43
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma at 2-06
5. Pierre Cazaux (Fra) FDJ at 2-10
6. Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Omega Pharma at 2-12
7. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 2-15
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 2-26
9. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Columbia
10. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha both same time
1. Vicenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas in 65-31-14
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 4sec
3. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 39sec
4. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Columbia at 2-29
5. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo at 2-30
6. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R at 2-47
7. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 2-48
8. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Transitions at 3-48
9. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervélo at 4-29
10. Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Katusha at 5-27
Vincenzo Nibali and Peter Velits
Ezequiel Mosquera attacks
Vincenzo Nibali in the lead