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Daniel Moreno timed his attack to perfection on Sunday at the Vuelta a España, winning the ninth stage and taking the leader’s red jersey by a single second.
The 136.7km leg from Antequera to Valdepenas de Jaen saw Moreno claim his second stage win of the Vuelta ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
Overnight leader Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) fought to keep the red jersey, crossing fourth, eight seconds behind.
But the 10-second bonus given to stage winners saw Moreno inch ahead of Roche by one second in the general classification. Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) moved back up to third, 20 seconds behind Moreno, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) fourth at 22 seconds.
American Chris Horner (RadioShack) slid to fifth at 28 seconds.
Sunday’s double triumph was quite an achievement for the 31-year-old Moreno, who is not even the leader of his own team, and he insisted afterwards that Rodriguez, who currently lies 56 seconds behind Moreno in sixth, remains Katusha’s prime candidate to win in Madrid.
“There is always joy when either one of us wins,” Moreno told TVE. “We spoke and we knew what we were going to do. The intention has always been to slowly but surely make up time on the leaders for Purito.
“The three weeks in the Vuelta a España are very long and I am extremely happy to be the leader today even if it is by just a second.”
Roche, who took the leader’s jersey when he finished third in Saturday’s grueling 166.6km stage from Jerez de la Frontera to Estepona, remained upbeat and is hopeful of retaking the lead either in Monday’s daunting climb to Guejar Sierra or in Wednesday’s individual time trial.
“Yesterday was a great day. I said that every day is different and today it has been very different,” said Roche.
“I think I had a good climb, I was fourth and the legs are good. I hope to be strong tomorrow to make up this second or at least not lose more time and I think the time trial will be good for me.
“We still have two weeks to go and anything can still happen. Last year in the Tour of Spain with four days to go everything changed, but I have already had a good performance here in 2010 and with a bit of luck everything will go well.”
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from Spain.