Spaniard Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), won Friday's 133km 19th stage of the Tour of Spain between Avila and the summit finish at Alto de Abentos. Sanchez also won stage 15 on Monday.
Russia's Denis Menchov (Rabobank) retained the leader's gold jersey.
Spaniard Carlos Sastre (CSC) moved into second place overall, overtaking
Australian Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), who came in one minute 25 seconds behind the leading group on the first category Alto de Abentos climb and slid to third place.
"I came to this race with the intention of competing and having fun, and on
both counts I'm happy," said Sastre said.
Barring a fall or accident there seems nothing to stop Menchov from winning
his second Vuelta on Sunday in Madrid, after taking the 2005 title when Roberto Heras was disqualified for doping.
Menchov fought off the repeated attacks of Sastre, over whom he holds a 3:02 lead at the end of the short but anxious mountain stage where the riders did six climbs in the rain.
"I followed the wheels of Sanchez and Sastre, and without working, I took a little bit more time on some of my rivals," Menchov said. "But I haven't won yet. I can't relax. I don't want to celebrate anything until a get on the podium."
Sastre gained a precious 47 seconds on Evans the day before the 20km time
trial of Collado Villalba, the second last stage of this year's Vuelta before the arrival in Madrid on Sunday.
1 Samuel Sánchez (Spa | Euskaltel-Euskadi) 3:37:01
2 Daniel Moreno (Spa | Relax GAM) 00:00:00
3 Denis Menchov (Rus | Rabobank) 00:00:03
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa | CSC) 00:00:03
5 Igor Antón (Spa | Euskaltel-Euskadi) 00:00:14
6 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol | Lampre) 00:00:29
7 Stéphane Goubert (Fra | Ag2r Prevoyance) 00:00:41
8 Manuel Beltrán (Spa | Liquigas) 00:00:49
9 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa | Karpin Galicia) 00:00:51
10 David López (Spa | Caisse d'Epargne) 00:00:59
15 Cadel Evans (Aus | Predictor-Lotto) 00:01:25
General classification after stage 19
1 Denis Menchov (Rus | Rabobank) 77:59:17
2 Carlos Sastre (Spa | CSC) 00:03:02
3 Cadel Evans (Aus | Predictor-Lotto) 00:03:49
4 Samuel Sánchez (Spa | Euskaltel-Euskadi) 00:03:58
5 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa | Karpin Galicia) 00:05:23
6 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus | Caisse d'Epargne) 00:05:47
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus | Caisse d'Epargne) 00:07:55
8 Igor Antón (Spa | Euskaltel-Euskadi) 00:07:58
9 Manuel Beltrán (Spa | Liquigas) 00:08:27
10 Carlos Barredo (Spa | Quick Step-Innergetic) 00:10:08
© BikeRadar & AFP 2007