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While Tom Danielson took the best win of his career in Granada on Wednesday, the main story at the Vuelta was Alexandre Vinokourov's daredevil descent off the last climb into Granada that took him more than 90 seconds clear of race leader Alejandro Valverde and ultimately landed him in the gold jersey thanks to the bonus seconds he took for finishing second behind the American.
The second of three consecutive mountain stages was expected to be the least troublesome for Valverde. However, the Spaniard was unable to respond to the Kazakh's attack on the final descent, and ended the stage nine seconds down overall.
Obviously, the stage marked a significant shift in fortune towards Vinokourov, but the Kazakh recognises that Valverde will still be dangerous both in today's stage to the summit of the Pandera and in Saturday's final time trial.
"Today I had good legs and I knew I could do the difference in the last 15 kilometres. Now I have to try to keep the jersey. I hope that the team continues to go well, because it will not be easy," said the Kazakh, who took the lead for the first time ever in a major tour.
"Today I gave everything and want to thank my team, and especially Andrei Kashechkin," he added.
Astana's concerted attacks on the climb of the Monachil eventually left Valverde without any team support for the first key moment in the race. "For sure right now I feel a little bit tired after the effort that I have just made," said Valverde in the immediate aftermath of the stage. "We will see how I recover tonight. Tomorrow it will be necessary to start fighting again and we don't intend to throw in the towel.
"All my team-mates did their best to help me and I know that tomorrow all of them will be present to start fighting again. We knew that the stage today was a hard and difficult one. In the final part of the climb of the Monachil I accelerated, but when I caught the group with the Kazakh riders, Vinokourov saw me and he attacked again immediately. It was consequently very difficult to go after him again, partly because nobody collaborated.
"I thought that [Jos Gomez] Marchante was going to assist me, but when he finally decided to do it, it was too little and too late. Tomorrow I will have to attack to recover some time."
A word too from Danielson after he took his first win in a major tour after going away in an early break, dropping his companions on the Monachil, and then staying with Vinokourov to the finish, where he won the sprint.
"Today was an amazing day for me. I got away in the early breakaway and worked really hard to make the break work. I began to tire on the final climb but focused on just turning the pedals over and on trying to win the stage. This is the biggest win of my career," he stated.
Discovery sports director Johan Bruyneel is very satisfied with the way his team has been riding in Spain. They currently have two stage wins, four riders in the top 12 overall and are leading the team classification. "With one more climbing stage and one time trial remaining, I think we can possibly have a few guys move up a little higher on general classification. But, regardless of what happens, I am very satisfied with what we have done so far. To have had Brajkovic in the yellow jersey and win two stages is fantastic. If we can maintain our lead in the team classification into Madrid, the Vuelta will have been a major success."
Stage 16, Adra-Granada
1 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 167km in 4.09.55 (40.02 km/h)
2 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana
3 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel 1.10
4 Andrei Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana 1.39
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC
6 Stphane Goubert (Fra) Ag2r
7 Luis Perez (Spa) Cofidis
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
9 Jos Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval
10 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 67.29.41
2 Valverde 0.09
3 Sastre 1.51
4 Kashechkin 2.14
5 Gomez Marchante 4.32
6 Danielson 6.07
7 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel 6.33
8 Sanchez 7.25
9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 7.49
10 Perez 9.04
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