Tom Danielson answered some critics today by winning a suprising stage 17 that saw Vino end up in the overall lead. After Danielson and Discovery were unable to defeat the efforts of Euskatel in stage 16 -- the Vino/Valverde battle worked against Danielson's chances -- Danielson this time found himself on the right side of the GC competition. Danielson managed to solo off the front while behind Valverde desperately chased Vino and Kashechkin. Just as Valverde caught the Astana riders, Vino took off and jumped all the way up to Danielson. There must have been some agreement between Vino and Danielson as the two worked together all the way to the finish -- Vino working for the golden jersey and Danielson working to just up the top ten standings and the stage win.
I really didn't expect to see Vino in the golden jersey. The first several stages of the Vuelta made Vino's teammates look as good if not better than Vino, and Vino certainly looked worse than Valverde, but Vino's stage 7 and stage 8 victories started to bring him back into contention. The stage 14 time trial seemed to close the door on Vino's chances, though, as VIno only managed to scrape back 9 seconds on Valverde. Valverde, looking so strong in both the mountains and the time trial, seemed well-suited to hold off an Astana assault.
I meant to keep the Vuelta posts more regular but I've had a bit of trouble following the Vuelta as cycling.tv has been a bit wonky -- I can't wake up early enough for the live broadcast and they've been unpredictable with when they make the stage highlights available. This year's Vuelta has been very exciting with all the battling between Valverde and Vino, with some Sastre punches thrown in. Astana has been amazing with its ability to get riders up at the front of the race and Discovery has been taking their chances ever since Danielson's then Brajkovic's chances were dashed.