Alejandro Valverde wins seventh stage of Vuelta, Janez Brajkovic overall leader

Alejandro Valverde of Spain won the seventh stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Friday with Janez Brajkovic of Slovenia claiming the overall leader's yellow jersey.

Valverde of the Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears team covered the 154.2 kilometers (95.8 miles) trek from Leon to the 1,750-meter (5,740-feet) high Alto de Morredero in 4 hours, 1 minute, 5 seconds.

"I am very happy with this win and to have made up time. It is a morale boost," Valverde said.

Carlos Sastre of CSC was four seconds back in second, with fellow Spaniard Jose Angel Gomez Marchante of Sajnier Duval-Prodir six seconds behind in third.

Brajkovic of the Discovery Channel climbed strongly to finish fourth, seven seconds later, and take the yellow jersey from Italy's Danilo di Luca of Liquigas, who slipped to ninth overall.

"I didn't expect to be leader, I came to gain experience and to help teammate Tom Danielson," said Brajkovic. "I'm eager to finish my first great Vuelta. I'll devote myself day in, day out, to work and only time will tell if I can in the future win the Tour de France. I fear no rival just bad weather."

The stage was flat for 135 kilometers (84 miles) before climbing to the summit of Alto de Morredero.

Sprinters David Loosli and Laszlo Bodrogi took advantage of the flat stretch to lead by more than 12 minutes by the 98-kilometer (61-mile) mark. But time-trial specialist Brajkovic judged the pace well.

"Brajkovic has offered us a glimpse of a great champion," Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel said. "I have only seen potential like what we have seen today on El Morredero when watching the very best riders. I think our rider is the future of cycling."

Saturday's eighth stage covers 181.6 kilometers (112.85 miles) from Pontevedra to seaside Lugo, reports AP.