Sept 4, 2011 - Juan Jose Cobo of the Geox team took possession of the red jersey from Bradley Wiggins on Sunday after the Englishman failed to defend his overall lead on the punishing climb to the notorious Angliru.
Cobo began the 15th stage, the third consecutive day in the high mountains, with a 55sec deficit on Team Sky leader Wiggins but zigzagged his way up the final steep pitches to finish 1min 21sec behind the Spaniard to drop to third.
Spaniard Cobo now leads Team Sky’s Christopher Froome – who once again played a major role in setting the pace for Wiggins up the climbs – by 20sec.
Wiggins is third overall at 46.50sec, ahead of Dutchman Bauke Mollema of Rabobank, while the Belgian Maxime Monfort of Leopard-Trek in fifth place at 2:37.
For the second consecutive day defending race champion Vicenzo Nibali lost time on the ride to the summit finish line, the Italian trailing home around 2:35 behind Cobo, and over a minute behind Wiggins.
The Liquigas rider thus dropped one place down to eighth with a deficit of 3:27 to Cobo – his title defence hopes are virtually crushed in the process.
Cobo, who had closed his deficit to Wiggins by over 30s to move up four places to fourth overall at 55 on Saturday’s climb to La Farrapona, attacked 6km from the summit of L’Angliru.
Despite Froome and Wiggins trailing by only 11secs at one point the Spaniard pushed on ahead. By the final 3km, with the pitches of over 20 percent gradient reducing Wiggins and Froome to an almost standstill, he had stretched his lead to over 40sec.
“My plan was to attack,” said the Spaniard, who will now be hoping on experienced Grand Tour pair Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov, also of Geox, to step up in further support of his victory bid.
“After yesterday’s stage I said if I had the legs I would attack, so I did. I felt strong today. I didn’t know how I was going to finish the stage, but I finished it teh best way I could.”
Monday is the second rest day in the race, with the action resuming on Tuesday with a mainly flat ride out of Palencia over 180km to Haro.
With six stages remaining, Cobo has taken a major step towards what would be a maiden, and largely unexpected Grand Tour victory.
But for now he is keeping his feet on the ground.
“I might be leading but there are still six stages and they will be difficult (for my team) to control,” he added.
“But the whole team is doing well and we’ll try to hold on all the way to Madrid.”
Wiggins faltered on the steep slopes and Froome eventually had to leave his leader behind to once again leap frog him in the standings.