König is king. Roche in red.

Fotoreporter Sirotti

Stage 8 of the Vuelta came with the most serious mountain finish to date and after an uneventful beginning the climb of Alto de Penas Blancas delivered the excitement and shake-ups it promised.

Leopold König crowned the promising start NetApp - Endura has had in the Vuelta so far with a big stagewin to prove that their wild card was not undeserved. He set in an attack to try and chase down Euskaltel's Igor Anton who was the first serious attacker on the final climb. Radioshack had set a blistering pace for Chris Horner early on and Horner himself looked frisky himself as he patrolled the front of the group. But as Ivan Basso went to the front to force the pace in a manner we haven't really seen since his Giro win back in 2010 Horner was one of many favorites to fade into the background. Neither Valverde, Rodriguez or Nibali had the legs or the will to go with the front group as Basso forged ahead.

König caught Anton and surged past him in the final kilometres as the Spaniard faded. He was soon passed by the chasing Basso group as well where Pinot, Roche and Dani Moreno were enjoying (or not so much enjoying by the looks on them) the ride on the wheel of the Cannondale captain. Moreno sprinted out of the group to try and pip König but much as his effort on stage 2 where Roche won, he left it just a little too late and couldn't quite catch the 26 year old Czech rider as he took his greatest victory to date. Nicolas Roche followed Moreno in sprinting out of the group and his third place was enough to make him the new race leader as both Nibali and Horner finished in groups a few seconds down.

The climber König has had problems living up to his promising results in 2010 as illness and injury have held him back in many of the big races he has targeted on the wild-card dependent NetApp schedule, for instance the 2011 Giro to name but one. This year though has already seen him win the big stage to Mount Diablo in the Tour of California and he will surely be on the radar for the big teams at this point. Will be interesting to see how he holds up as well as he currently sits in 5th place on GC. Can he maintain the level and stay top 10 over the whole three weeks?

Some of the more notable names who fell off the back of the lorry today were Saxo's Roman Kreuziger, who always insisted he didn't have the legs for GC here anyway, and Belkin's Bauke Mollema who dropped off early and lost 2 min 33 sec at the end of the day. Those two can be added to the growing list of "No longer GC candidates, Hello Firenze!" -riders

Stage 8 Top 10

1. CZEKONIG, Leopold 151 TEAM NETAPP-ENDURA 4h 09' 46''
2. ESPMORENO, Daniel 127 KATUSHA TEAM 4h 09' 47'' + 1''
3. IRLROCHE, Nicolas 205 TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 4h 09' 51'' + 5''
4. FRAPINOT, Thibaut 101 FDJ.FR 4h 09' 51'' + 5''
5. ITABASSO, Ivan 71 CANNONDALE PRO CYCLING 4h 09' 51'' + 5''
6. BELDE CLERCQ, Bart 141 LOTTO BELISOL 4h 09' 54'' + 8''
7. ESPANTON, Igor 92 EUSKALTEL EUSKADI 4h 09' 59'' + 13''
8. ESPVALVERDE, Alejandro 1 MOVISTAR TEAM 4h 10' 05'' + 19''
9. ESPRODRIGUEZ, Joaquin 121 KATUSHA TEAM 4h 10' 05'' + 19''
10. COLURAN, Rigoberto 198 SKY PROCYCLING 4h 10' 09'' + 23''

General Classification

1. IRLROCHE, Nicolas 205 TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 31h 39' 30''
2. USAHORNER, Christopher 184 RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 31h 39' 47'' + 17''
3. ESPMORENO, Daniel 127 KATUSHA TEAM 31h 39' 47'' + 17''
4. ITANIBALI, Vincenzo 31 ASTANA PRO TEAM 31h 39' 48'' + 18''
5. CZEKONIG, Leopold 151 TEAM NETAPP-ENDURA 31h 39' 59'' + 29''
6. ESPZUBELDIA, Haimar 189 RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 31h 40' 00'' + 30''
7. ESPVALVERDE, Alejandro 1 MOVISTAR TEAM 31h 40' 01'' + 31''
8. COLURAN, Rigoberto 198 SKY PROCYCLING 31h 40' 12'' + 42''
9. POLMAJKA, Rafal 202 TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 31h 40' 22'' + 52''
10. ESPRODRIGUEZ, Joaquin 121 KATUSHA TEAM 31h 40' 33'' + 1' 03''
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