Vuelta Stage 19: Cobo wins as Valverde tightens grip on gold
Sponsor William Hill already paying out on Spaniard's overall victory
Image © Unipublic
Vuelta Stage 19: Avila – La Granja 180KM
Juan José Cobo of Fuji-Servetto got the stage win in La Granja this afternoon, but it is race leader Alejandro Valverde who has most to celebrate as he tightened his grip on the overall lead with just tomorrow’s individual time trial and Sunday’s procession into Madrid to come.
The Caisse d’Epargne rider crossed the line behind Cobo to claim a 12-second time bonus and with Rabobank’s Robert Gesink, second in the general classification this morning, clearly suffering the after-effects of Wednesday’s crash and finishing almost five minutes down, only a stunning turnaround tomorrow will prevent Valverde from winning his first Grand Tour.
Today’s stage, which included three Category 1 climbs, was always likely to see attacks as rivals sought to eat into Valverde’s lead. But despite an effort by Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez to use his descending skills to try and make up some time on the race leader on the 18-kilometre descent to the finish, the Caisse d’Epargne rider stuck to the Olympic Champion like a limpet.
However, Sanchez can take comfort from the fact that Gesink’s misfortune sees him move up to second overall.
Most of the other riders towards the top of the general classification bridged the gap to Valverde and Sanchez as the race neared its conclusion, including Liquigas rider Ivan Basso and Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto, who now lie respectively third and fourth overall.
Sanchez may have the edge over Valverde when it comes to time trials, but at almost one and a half minutes down on his compatriot, it’s unlikely that tomorrow’s 28-kilometre course will give him enough of an opportunity to snatch gold.
Bookmakers William Hill, sponsors of this year’s Vuelta, clearly don’t think that’s going to happen – this morning, they reportedly shelled out €1 million to Spanish cycling fans who had backed Valverde to wear the golden jersey on the podium in Madrid.
Having said that, the bookies don’t always know – just ask Betfred, who in 1998 paid out early on Manchester United winning the Premier League before Arsenal overhauled them to win the title.