Vuelta: Win for Daniele Bennati on stage 20

Team Sky duo Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins look set for second and third respectively at the Vuelta a Espana after Juan José Cobo moved to within touching distance of overall victory on the penultimate stage, which was won by Leopard Trek sprinter Daniele Bennati.

Geox rider Cobo will take a 13 seconds lead over Froome and a minute and 39 seconds over Wiggins into Sunday’s largely celebratory final stage in Madrid.

Opportunities to cut that gap have been few and far between for Froome ever since he won the final mountain-top finish of this year’s race back on stage 17. And it was a similar story on the 185 kilometres route from Bilbao to Vitoria, with the day’s final climb coming nearly 50km from the finish.

Cobo stuck to his rival’s wheel virtually throughout, with the only slight moment of confusion coming when Froome sprinted clear with 20km remaining. He was under the impression he was going for second place in the day’s final intermediate sprint – and a potential four seconds bonus – but it was the 20km banner and as soon as he realised he sat up.

Leopard Trek took control in the closing stages and their efforts paid off as Bennati took advantage to comfortably outspeed Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) and Damiano Caruso (Liquigas).

Steven de Jongh, Team Sky Sports Director:“I am very happy with the boys again today just as I have been all Tour. They all worked really hard and it was always unlikely that we were going to be able to put 14 seconds into Cobo.

“Brad did well to take a couple of seconds when he did and Froomey also tried to attack but mis-judged the distance barriers. That caught everyone by surprise actually as they thought we had sprung a shock move!”

“We were never going to put it all on the line today though and risk their podium positions because at the end of the day what we have achieved here is still a fantastic result.

“Brad and Froomey haven’t put a foot wrong all Tour and the whole team can be proud of themselves. Credit to Cobo and his Geox team as well. They have proven to be very strong and have ridden a very clever race.”

Chris Sutton, Team Sky Rider: “My role today was to lookout for Brad and Froomey and help them out with anything they needed, whether that meant doing drink runs, keeping them out of the wind or guiding them into position at certain times. It was another hot day but we all got through it okay.

“This race has been a big learning experience for me because I’ve been asked to fulfil a lot of different roles. For instance I’ve never really had to ride on the front before but have been told to do it pretty much day in day out, especially when the boys had the red jersey.

“My first win seems a long time ago – like a different Tour actually – so it would be nice to get another result on Sunday, especially with it being my [27th] birthday today as well.

“All the boys are geed up for tomorrow and so am I – I’ll be giving it everything I’ve got. I’ve been trying to save as much energy as possible when I haven’t been working for the team so hopefully I’ll have a bit left in the tank.”

<<<<< Previous Stage

1. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard Trek     4:39:20
2. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Pro Team Astana
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 Cycling Team
8. Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
10. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
11. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team

20. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
21. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
26. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling
39. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling
40. Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo

1. Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC     82:38:32
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling     0:00:13
3. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling     0:01:39
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team     0:02:03
5. Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC     0:03:48
6. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek     0:04:13
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale     0:04:31
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto     0:04:45
9. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team     0:05:20
10. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi     0:05:33

13.Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo     0:07:22
16.Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale     0:10:25

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