Vuelta 19: Igor Anton wins on home turf

Cobo fends off Froome's attacks to retain overall lead

Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) took a popular stage victory in Bilbao as the Vuelta a España returned to the Basque Country for the first time in 33 years. Cheered raucously by the huge home crowds on the sharp climb of the Alto El Vivero, the Basque dropped his final breakaway companion Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar) and held his advantage on the descent to win 41 seconds ahead of the Italian.

In the battle for overall honours, Juan José Cobo (Geox-TMC) maintains his 13-second lead over Chris Froome after resisting two fierce accelerations from the Sky rider on that second ascent of El Vivero. The first time up the climb, Froome's teammate Thomas Lofkvist thinned out the main peloton with an impressive show of pace-setting, and then Bradley Wiggins took up the reins the next time around.

They were unable to trouble Cobo, however: the Spaniard was alert to Froome's initial acceleration inside the final kilometre of the climb, and he had the wherewithal to stick with the Briton's second dig over the summit of the climb. The pair was swept up by the small main peloton on the descent into Bilbao, where a small group clipped off the front and Dominic Nerz (Liquigas-Cannondale) picked up the final bonus seconds on offer.

The stage was dominated by a four-man move composed of Anton and his Euskaltel-Euskadi teammate Gorka Verdugo, as well as Bruseghin and Alexsandr Dyanchenko (Astana). Fittingly, the Basque duo led the break over the climb of the Puerto de Las Muñecas, which brought the Vuelta back to the Basque Country for the first time since 1978. Over the following 100km, the race was given a rapturous welcome by the Basque fans, and Anton took the cue to push clear to victory El Vivero.

This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.

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