Frenchman David Moncoutie of Cofidis won the eighth stage of the Tour of Spain on Sunday, a 151km ride from Andorra to Pla de Beret, but it was US rider Levi Leipheimer of Astana who bagged the leader’s golden jersey.
Home favorite Alberto Contador attacked hard and snatched a few seconds off his main rival Carlos Sastre as the event moved back out of Andorra into Spain. Alejandro Valverde, who had complained of feeling off color on Saturday, this time stuck close to Contador’s wheel and then just pipped the latter for second place on the day.
Leipheimer now has a 20-second lead on Contador, with Valverde 49 seconds adrift. Leipheimer, who also led overall after Wednesday’s individual time trial, refused to talk up his chances, saying he was working for Contador.
“I might be leader again, but the team is continuing to work for Contador. I am delighted with how things are at the moment,” Leipheimer said.
Moncoutie had been one of a five-strong group who escaped 38km into the ride, along with compatriots Christophe Kern and Sebastien Joly, Spaniard Juan Manuel Garate and Russian Nikita Eskov, before making his successful bid for the stage honors 20km out from the line.
Joly looked set to give him a run for his money coming off the first category Bonaigua climb, but then fell back on the final ascent, the uncategorized Pla de Beret.
Moncoutie, who returns this week to the top level after a fall in March 2006 when he injured his right knee, said: “I have been out for two years and this is my return to elite cycling.”
“The breakaway was a real trial of strength and this new victory is really special,” added the rider who won stages in the Tour de France in both 2004 and 2005.