Italy's new star Vincenzo Nibali continues to enjoy a successful season. Today, he gained the overall classification of the Vuelta a España on the top of the Peña Cabarga climb in Northern Spain.
Nibali's season was highlighted by the Giro d'Italia. At the Italian Grand Tour, he helped Liquigas team-mate Ivan Basso win the race, but also won a stage and held the leader's jersey for three days.
Nibali now has his chance at the Spanish Grand Tour. Today, in the 14th stage of 21, he finished in second place at 20 seconds behind stage winner, Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha). Rodríguez caught and attacked Nibali with 800 metres left to race to the top of the 5.9-kilometre Peña Cabarga climb.
"Win the race overall? It is difficult," said Nibali. "I will have to manage myself over tomorrow's stage, but in my favour is the final time trial [46 kilometres on Wednesday]."
Nibali's and Rodriguez's gains came at the loss of former race leader, Igor Antón. The Spaniard of team Euskaltel-Euskadi crashed with 6.2 kilometres to race, at the foot of the Peña Cabarga climb. Antón's red leader's jersey appeared as if it passed through a paper shredder, but the worse of his problems was his right collarbone.
Antón abandoned the race after leading it for five days and likely fractured his collarbone. His team-mate Egoi Martínez was worse off and abandoned in an ambulance.
"I am sorry for Antón, it is too bad he crashed," said Nibali. "I wanted to battle him in another way than this."
Brit David Millar led the race as the Antón crashed. He had attacked 47 kilometres into the 178-kilometre stage from Burgos to try to take a second stage win in as many years.
Millar and Garmin-Transitions team-mate David Zabriskie attacked the group led by team Caisse d'Epargne and, after nearly 20 kilometres, joined Dutchman Niki Terpstra (Milram). The trio kept an advantage of around 10 minutes over the Alto de Bocos and Portillo de Lunada climbs, with their advantage reaching a maximum of 12'55".
Millar's group lost its advantage over the Alto del Caracol climb, but it was due more to the attacks behind than the trio's weariness.
Caisse d'Epargne tried to break the lead of Igor Antón and his Euskaltel-Euskadi team. David Arroyo nearly beat Ivan Basso for the Giro d'Italia win in May, but he worked today for his team-mates. His short-lived attack created an opportunity for Caisse d'Epargne team-mate Luis León Sánchez to counter-attack.
Sánchez and Russian Champion Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) cleared the top of the Caracol climb ahead of the main group and held brief advantage over a chasing Euskaltel team.
Millar, though, was still on the move.
USA's Zabriskie did his last turn of work on the front of the trio then waved bye to his team-mate. Millar rode ahead with four minutes on the group behind and still with Terpstra, who felt the efforts of his solo escape yesterday.
Millar had more control of his time trial win last year in Toledo than he had in today's road stage. He can dose himself over a set limit and ride at his maximum in a time trial, but on a road stage, he is forced to react to his surroundings. In this case, Nibali's Liquigas team came charging from behind.
Millar folded first, then Terpstra with 1.6 kilometres remaining - moments before Rodríguez and Nibali would seize the day.
Nibali, though, only has a slim four-second lead on Rodríguez now. Tomorrow, he faces another mountain day, the 15th stage to Lagos de Covadonga.
Vuelta a Espana 2010, stage 14:
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 20 secs
3. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 22 secs
4. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis at 33 secs
5. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r at 34 secs
DNF Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
Overall classification after stage 14
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo in 60-55-39
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 4 secs
3. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 50 secs
4. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervelo at 50 secs
5. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r at 2-11
Stage 14 scenery
Katusha lead the chase
David Millar: So nearly made it
Vincenzo Nibali launches the attack that would see him in the red jersey
Seeing red: Nibali takes control
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Stage reports
Stage 13: Cavendish makes it two in a row
Stage 12: Cavendish completes the set of grand tour stage wins
Stage 11: Anton takes solo victory and reclaims lead
Stage 10: Erviti takes stage win as Saxo Bank self destruct
Stage nine: Lopez wins demanding day at Vuelta from escape
Stage eight: Moncoutie takes the stage win as Anton moves into lead
Stage seven: Petacchi wins, Cavendish second
Stage six: Hushovd demonstrates climbing skills on way to stage win
Stage five: Farrar beats Cavendish for stage win
Stage four: Anton wins stage but Gilbert keeps the red jersey
Stage three: Gilbert attacks to win stage and take race lead
Stage two: Hutarovich beats Cavendish to win
Stage one TTT: Cavendish leads after HTC-Columbia win team time trial
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Photo galleries
Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photos by Graham Watson
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