Cobo claims Vuelta lead
Froome and Wiggins second and third on GC
By Jonathan Turner. Last Updated: September 4, 2011 6:29pm
Cobo: Saw off his rivals on the final climb to assume the overall lead of the Vuelta
Juan José Cobo climbed to victory on an epic stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana to take the leader's red jersey from Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins.
The Geox rider made his move with just under seven kilometres remaining on the extreme final climb of the Alto de L'Angliru.
That 12.5km ascent had an average gradient of over 10%, with ramps of up to 23.5% in places, and not surprisingly it splintered the field - with even two televsion motorbikes struggling to cope with the steepness of the slopes.
With 5km to go, Cobo was 13 seconds ahead of a select group that contained both Wiggins and his Team Sky team-mate Chris Froome and the Spaniard extended that advantage to 40 seconds going under the 3km banner.
Cobo had started the day just 55 seconds adrift in fourth on the general classification and he was able to maintain his momentum all the way to the line for both the stage victory - plus a 20 seconds time bonus - and top spot on the overall standings.
He finished 48 seconds ahead of Wout Poels (Vacansoleil), Denis Menchov (Geox) and Froome, with that trio a further 33 seconds in front of Wiggins and Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
It all means that going into the second rest day Cobo leads the GC by 20 seconds from Froome, with Wiggins 46 seconds back in third and Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) 1:36 adrift in fourth.
The 142.2km stage from Aviles had earlier featured a three-man breakaway comprising Dimitri Champion (AG2R), Simon Geschke (Skil-Shimano) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Cervelo).
They escaped after 37km and quickly built up a maximum advantage of exactly six minutes but it was only a matter of time before they were caught and that happened on the early slopes of the day's penultimate climb up to
Alto del Cordal.
Then it was all about the feared final Angliru climb and Carlos Sastre was the first to attack as he forced the pace for his team leader Cobo.
Carlos Barredo (Rabobank) and Anton both made their own moves in the first half of the ascent but it was Cobo's surge as the gradient hit over 13% with 7km remaining which ultimately proved decisive.
He now has six stages to defend his lead before the finish in Madrid next Sunday.