David Moncoutie will not be joining the Damiano Cunego fan club.
The Italian Lampre rider stole the first mountain stage in the Vuelta from the Frenchman in the final kilometer.
Until that moment, Moncoutie had ridden a perfect tactical race, jumping into the early six man breakaway, conserving his strength and thinking about lucky eights: the Cofidis rider won the 8th stage of last year’s Vuelta. There were also eight climbs between Alzire and Alto de Aitana and yes, it was stage 8 again. The planets appeared in full alignment. Unfortunately the Little Prince had other ideas.
At the base of the Alto de Aitana, Moncoutie and his fellow esacapado, Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) had over two minutes on the Caisse d’Epargne-lead peloton. They made a funny pair, Hoogerland with his herky jerky pedaling style and Mouncoutie with his fluid spin.
As the grade steepened, Mouncoutie dropped the game sprinter Hoogerland, who was perhaps exhausted from being in four breakaways so far this Vuelta. All the favorites were still over a minute back, showing no signs of waking up. Evans, Danielson, Sanchez, the felon Valverde — a bunch of marked men riding tempo.
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) made a short, useless attack, then Cuenego rocketed away with two kilometers of mountain left. Back in Paris, the David Moncoutie fan club groaned. Their man took second place and the firm decision to never buy Cunego an espresso.
The overall standings now read as predicted, with Evans first, followed by Valverde and Sanchez. The half surprise is Ton Danielson. proving his excellent form and renewed confifence. The Garmin rider slots in at 4th, just 13 seconds from the golden Oro jersey. Gesink and Basso round out the top six places.