Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) flew free on the cool 9°C summit finish at 2100 meters with a last-minute attack. Nibali, as the winds picked up, followed Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) with attacks of his own in the final kilometres. He gained time on all of his rivals but Froome.
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Froome finished second with Nibali and Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) in close attendance behind, taking two seconds in bonus on Nibali, extending his lead to 1-19.
“We are becoming better and better but it’s too early to judge,” Bahrain-Merida sports director Gorazd Stangelj said. “As you can tell, Chris Froome has a strong team and he is strong, so it’s very difficult to gain time against him. But at least someone needs to try.”
Nibali won the Vuelta in 2010 and went on to take the 2014 Tour de France title and the Giro d’Italia title twice. Froome said on a couple of occasions that he ranks the Sicilian known as ‘The Shark’ as his most dangerous rival in this 2017 Vuelta.
Only he and Contador tried to break Froome’s grip on the red jersey.
Watch: Vuelta a España stage 11 highlights
“I saw there was little bit of tiredness in the group and I said to Franco [Pellizotti] to go harder,” Nibali explained. “And then we had Visconti and he helped.”
Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), who sat second at the start of the stage lost time on the wet and cold day as did BMC Racing’s Nicolas Roche and Tejay van Garderen, all of whom were close to Nibali on GC when he began the day in fourth overall.
He relied on Bahrain-Merida to break his opponents. The team made pace after Orica-Scott tried. Later, team-mates Franco Pellizotti and Giovanni Visconti, who was in the early escape, worked.
“The first time it was Alberto Contador to go and I followed him, and I thought that we could do something together,” Nibali said.
“Behind, Sky worked to bring it together. Franco did well again in the last part. Truly my team did well all day. In the last kilometre, I knew it would be ‘easy’ so I tried with three kilometres to race.”