Overall leader Igor Anton crashed out of the Vuelta a Espana today as Joaquin Rodriguez raced to victory on an action-packed 14th stage.
Katusha rider Rodriguez triumphed on the Pena Cabarga climb at the end of the 178km ride out of Burgos, the Spaniard coming home 20 ahead of Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo), who takes the lead of the General Classification as a result of Anton’s withdrawal with a suspected broken collarbone.
Anton came unstuck when he and Euskaltel-Euskadi team-mate Egoi Martinez tangled just before the final climb.
With Anton out of the picture having led the race for the past five days, Nibali surged into the lead on the final ascent before Rodriguez battled back to overtake the Italian with less than a kilometre to go and eke out a comfortable margin of victory at the finish.
Rodriguez’s win leaves him just four seconds adrift of Nibali in the GC, while Spain’s Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo) finished third on the stage to move up to the same position in the overall standings, 50 seconds down on the leader.
The 25-year-old Nibali has enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2010, with the Italian holding the leader’s jersey for three days and winning a stage at the Giro d’Italia.
Nibali has now played himself into a strong position to win his first grand tour event, but played down his prospects after today’s eventful stage, saying: “It is difficult. I will have to manage myself over tomorrow’s stage.”
Reflecting on the accident that brought Anton’s strong race to an end, he added: “I am sorry for Anton, it is too bad he crashed.
“I wanted to battle him in another way than this.”
The riders face another tough day in the mountains tomorrow as they tackle the 15th stage to Lagos de Covadonga.