Juan Jose Cobo. Is he a Nibali or Aitor Gonzales?

Cobo. Vuelta. Smile.

Juan Jose Cobo had a fantastic Vuelta a Espana and enjoyed the bubbly and big grand tour victory in Madrid. Hats off, a slew of chapeaus, enjoy the salary bump. You’ve earned it all, Bison-man.

While it can’t be said that Cobo came out of nowhere — 20th overall in the 2007 Tour de France and 10th overall in the Vuelta two years later — Cobo wasn’t on anybody’s dark horse radar of potential winners. (Neither was Team Sky’s Chris Froome, for that matter.)

He came to work for team captains Denis Menchov and Carlos “chronic fatigue” Sastre. The Russian had already won the Helta Skelta Vuelta twice and Sastre came into the race making vague remarks that his form — last seen in 2008 — was on the upswing. (Three weeks later, we can say with confidence, not really.)

But back to Cobo, because his win raises a question here at Twisted Spoke world headquarters: is Cobo another rider like last year’s winner Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas or someone destined to fade back into grand tour obscurity like 2002 winner Aitor Gonzales?

Now, Gonzales is back in the news of late as Spanish police arrested him for bank fraud. That was his third offense (outside of cycling) as he was also busted for driving under the influence of alcohol and cocaine and in 2008 police nabbed him for hiring men to beat up a two businessmen.

As Santiago Botero, a former teammate of Gonzalez’ in Kelme, told me two weeks ago during the US Pro Cycling Challenge, “Aitor was a bad guy.”

We’re making no claims or assertions concerning Cobo, only that he’s now officially a grand tour winner and we’re wondering if this is his high point or if there are greater things ahead.

Since the year 2000 the Vuelta has had a string of winners that were later disgraced: Jan Ullrich, Roberto Heras, Alexandre Vinokourov and Alejandro Valverde. This may or may not include Spaniard Alberto Contador and his clenbuterol tainted steak. Still no CAS decision on that slow motion legal motion.

We’re hoping that Cobo joins Vincenzo Nibali on the list of potential winners in any grand tour he enters. Here’s to the Helta Skelta Vuelta being just the beginning for the climber from Cantabria.

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  • Shawn

    While I can see him being a top-ten finisher in future grand tours, it seems like he road the wave of a perfect storm to victory: perfectly timed peak of condition for summit finishes, a rival team backing the wrong rider (Wiggins), and other contenders fading hard down the stretch (Nibali, Rodriguez, Fuglsang, etc.). On a different point, can Cobo's victory be enough to get Geox into the Pro Tour next year?

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Shawn, that last question is a very good one. It just might and that would keep the sponsor paying the bills. Cobo and Menchov is a tougher team to say no to. Matt

  • Higgins

    Somehow, I think this rider is a one-hit wonder.

    Cant wait for him to prove me wrong.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      My sentiments exactly. We need more competition but still, this feels half lucky. Matt