David Moncoutie won a mountain finish to take the 11th stage of the Vuelta a Espana on Wednesday as Bradley Wiggins marked his full return from injury by claiming the overall lead.
Moncoutie broke away 13km from the end of the 167km leg, and the Frenchman reached the finish at the Manzaneda ski resort 1 minute, 18 seconds ahead of Benat Intxausti and Luis Leon Sanchez. The Cofidis cyclist clocked four hours, 38 minutes for his fourth career Vuelta stage victory.
Wiggins’ grit carried him into the overall lead as the Briton finished 3:08 behind Moncoutie in 13th.
Wiggins, who sustained a broken collarbone at the Tour de France, took the leader’s red jersey from Sky teammate Christopher Froome, who is seven seconds behind in second place.
The first of three stages being raced in the northwest province of Galicia closed with a 30km climb up to the first-ever finish at the 1,750m high mountain peak.
Moncoutie faced no challengers as he steered away from the chasers, with Wiggins doing well to stay ahead of his teammate while maintaining his 11-second advantage over defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, who finished in the same time as Wiggins and is third overall.
Wiggins leads with an overall time of 42:50:41 halfway through the 21-stage race, which marks the season’s last classic after the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. Astana’s Swedish cyclist Fredrik Kessiakoff is 14 seconds behind in fourth, while Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark is 19 seconds back in fifth.
Six other riders were able to gain on Wiggins’ overall time after coming in behind Sanchez, but ahead of the leading group. Spanish cyclist Joaquin Rodriguez finished seven seconds ahead of Wiggins to trail by 2:56.
“I would have attacked earlier, but the strong wind didn’t allow me to do what I had in my mind,” Rodriguez said. “Today I didn’t gain a lot, maybe in the next stages things could be even better and I can gain. I feel I can still fight for this Vuelta.”
In Madrid, Spain’s controversial three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador said on Wednesday that it was “very likely” that he would once again compete in the Vuelta a Espana next year.
The 28-year-old rider did not participate in this year’s Vuelta, citing the need to rest. He last competed in the race in 2008 when he won it.
“Next year my goal is the Tour de France, but it is very likely that I will take part in the 2012 Tour of Spain. I feel like it again,” he said during an interview with the Web site of Spanish public broadcaster TVE.
Contador finished in fifth place in the Tour de France this year. A week later he announced that he would not compete in this year’s Vuelta.
The Spaniard is only the fifth cyclist to win all three of cycling’s premier events — the Tour de France, the Vuelta a Espana and the Giro d’Italia — and is the fastest to accomplish the feat.
He tested positive for a tiny amount of the banned muscle-building substance clenbuterol during last year’s Tour de France, which he went on to win.
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