Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) took the honours at the 19th stage of the Vuelta a Espana after winning a spectacular uphill finish in Toledo, as race leader Vincenzo Nibali extended his overall advantage.
American Tyler Farrar (Garmin) took second behind the Belgian but Briton Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) retains the points jersey going into the race's final weekend. Cavendish narrowly leads the Garmin rider by 12 points as he attempts to become Britain's first winner of a Grand Tour major jersey since Malcolm Elliott in 1989.
The peloton swallowed up a brave late attack by Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) but a gradually rising final 4km into Toledo fractured the group and Gilbert was able to outpace Farrar in the final kilometre. Cavendish was never likely to favour the twisting run into the medieval city.
Gilbert said: "It's a very nice finish. Very technical. I got big help from my team to take position right before the climb. I decided to stay calm and put everything into the sprint."
His impressive victory will enhance his status as favourite for the World Road Race Championships in Australia next month.
Italian Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) took third pace with Sebastien Hinault (Ag2r) and Peter Velits (HTC Columbia) completing the top five on today's leg from Piedrahita to Toledo, which at 231.2km was the longest stage of the race.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) extended his overall race lead to 12 seconds over Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo-Galicia) but the battle for the red jersey will come down to tomorrow's tough penultimate 172km stage beginning in San Martin de Valdeiglesias and ending with a summit finish in Bola del Mundo.
The race finishes in Madrid on Sunday.
Vuelta a Espana 2010, stage 19: Piedrahita to Toledo, 231.2km
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) in 5-43-41
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin at 1 sec
3. Filippo Pozzatto (Ita) Katusha
4. Sebastien HInault (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
5. Peter Velits (Slo) HTC-Columbia all same time
Overall classification after stage 19
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas in 80-30-48
2. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 50 secs
3. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Columbia at 1-59
4. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 3-48
5. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 3-54
6. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo at 4-02
7. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R at 4-10
Philippe Gilbert takes the win ahead of Tyler Farrar
Vincenzo Nibali maintains the overall lead
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Related links
Vuelta 2010 coverage index
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