Spanish rider Igor Anton took the overall leader's red jersey after the first mountainous stage of the tragedy-hit Tour of Spain Saturday which was won by France's David Moncoutie.
Moncoutie of Cofidis finished the eighth stage of the race, a 190-kilometre ride from Villena to Xorret de Cati that included five mountain passes, in 5hrs, 14min and 32sec, 54sec ahead of nearest rival Serafin Martinez of Spain.
But the stage took place against a sombre background.
A minute's silence was observed before the start in memory of Team Sky masseur Txema Gonzalez who died in hospital in Seville on Friday, five days after he was taken to hospital suffering from a bacterial infection that developed into sepsis.
Team Sky pullled out of the Tour of Spain in the wake of his death and Anton dedicated his red jersey win to the 43-year-old.
"This is the only decision which we could have taken. It is the right decision, to showour respect to Txema," the British team's principal Dave Brailsford said.
On Saturday, the 35-year-old Moncoutie was part of a small group that broke away early in the stage but after the final climb the breakway group split apart and he was able to outride his rivals to be the first across the finish line.
"I hope to be one of the best climbers of this Vuelta," said Moncoutie.
Belgium's Philippe Gilbert, who had held the red jersey since the third stage, was involved in an early tumble which allowed Anton, who finished the stage in seventh place, to take over the overall lead.
"I am surprised. If I did not become the leader it would not be a trauma," said Anton. "I am not obsessed now with being the leader. You have to work hard, the Vuelta is long."
Sunday's ninth stage takes the riders 187.7 kilometres from Calpe to Alcoy and includes a third category climb just seven kilometres from the finish line.
The 21-stage Tour of Spain, which began last Saturday with a team time trial through the streets of Seville, wraps up in Madrid on September 19.
© AFP 2010
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