Vino on fire as Valverde takes lead

Alexandre Vinokourov takes his second stage victory in as many days, while Spain's Alejandro Valverd

Alexandre Vinokourov takes his second stage victory in as many days, while Spain's Alejandro Valverd
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM A second stage win in as many days at the Vuelta has proven that Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) is not just back, but he's back with a bang - and has put the disappointment of having missed the Tour de France behind him. But Sunday's stage proved disappointing for Discovery Channel's Janez Brajkovic who lost 2-14 to 'Vino', and with it the race lead to Spanish star Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne), who now leads Vinokourov's team-mate and fellow Kazakh Andrey Kashechkin, third on the stage, by 27 seconds. Valverde, buoyed by the roadside support from enthusiastic fans who were also celebrating their national team's win in the basketball world championships the same day, couldn't do enough to catch Vinokourov, as he had done in the closing metres of Friday's stage, but finished second, and with it took the gold leader's jersey from 22-year-old Brajkovic's shoulders. It was a tough day at the office for the Vuelta peleton, having passed over five climbs before taking on the final climb of the day of La Cobertoria, and it was here, with 7km to go, that Vinokourov, along with Kashechkin, made his move, distancing his rivals, and then Kashechkin. Valverde went after the leading duo, overhauling Kashechkin, but not Vinokourov, who won by 16 seconds. It's these two riders who now most worry Valverde as he attempts to hold on to the leader's jersey. "The two most dangerous riders are of course the Kazakhs," Valverde said, "but I am not ruling out Carlos Sastre." The CSC rider finished fourth on the stage, and now lies third overall, 44 seconds down on Valverde. Despite making it look easy, stage winner Vinokourov described it as "a very difficult stage", and was backed up by race leader Valverde. "I don't think even the Tour de France has a stage hard as this one," he said. After Monday's rest day, it will be back to business for the sprinters on Tuesday's 199km stage between Avils and the Museo de Altamira in Santillana del Mar. Stage 9: A Fonsagrada - Alto de La Cobertoria 1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 206km in 5.50.43 2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 0.16 3 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana 0.21 4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 0.43 5 Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval 6 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 7 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel 1.46 8 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval 9 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel 1.59 10 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel 2.14 13 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel Overall 1 Valverde 36.41.31 2 Kashechkin 0.27 3 Sastre 0.44 4 Gomez Marchante 0.56 5 Vinokourov 1.38 6 Brajkovic 2.05 7 Di Luca 2.21 8 Beltran 2.28 9 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Lampre 3.59 10 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Lampre 5.18

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