Spaniard Juan Jose Cobo remained on course for overall victory in the Vuelta a Espaa when he held his lead over Britain’s Chris Froome after Saturday’s 20th and penultimate stage. Italian sprint specialist Daniele Bennati of Leopard Trek team won the stage, a 185-kilometer ride from Bilbao to Vitoria in the Basque Country, ahead of compatriots Enrico Gasparotto and Damiano Caruso.
Cobo and Froome finished with the pack in the same time as Bennati after the stage, which included four mountain passes but which ended with a relatively flat stretch of about 45-kilometers that favored a sprint finish. The Kenyan-born Briton of Team Sky trails Cobo by 13-seconds ahead of the final stage that ends in Madrid on Sunday.
Given the unwritten rule in the Grand Tours that no one attacks the race leader in the last stage, it would be difficult for Froome to overhaul the Geox rider. But 32 seconds in bonus seconds are up for grabs on Sunday, and Cobo was leaving nothing to chance.
“Mathematically, it’s not over,” said Cobo, who has yet to win any of the three major Tours. “The Sky team has the chance to win tomorrow. Myself and my team will be concentrating all the way to Madrid.”
Froome did his best to cut the deficit by picking up bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints, but to no avail as the race leader followed him like a shadow. The stage was otherwise marked by several breakaways, notably by Carlos Barredo of Rabobank who led over the first category Urkiola climb. The 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre of Spain attacked near the finish and although he was caught just four kilometres from the line, his attempt demonstrated his Geox team’s alertness to the threat of Team Sky.
Sunday’s final stage takes the riders 95.6 kilometres over a relatively flat course from the Circuito del Jarama to Madrid.
Vuelta a Espaa Stage 20
1. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard Trek 4:39:20
2. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana @ s.t.
3. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
4. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team Garmin-Cervelo
5. Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil-Shimano
6. Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-ISD
7. Davide Malacarne (Ita) Quickstep
8. Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Quickstep
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank
10. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
General Classification After Stage 20
1. Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC 74:04:05
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky @ .13
3. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky @ 1:41
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank @ 2:05
5. Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC @ 3:48
6. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek @ 4:13
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale @ 4:31
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto @ 4:45
9. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha @ 5:20
10. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 5:33