Mikel Nieve claimed the 16th stage of the Vuelta a Espana today while his fellow Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez regained the overall lead.
Nieve staged a solo breakaway from a small leading group with about seven kilometres to go on the tough 181,4km ride from Gijon to Cotobello and was never seriously challenged as he clinched his first professional victory.
The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider finished over a minute ahead of Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck, who took second place after sprinting past third-placed Kevin De Weert (Quick Step) on the final straight as the riders climbed up Alto de Cotobello - one of three big climbs in the second half of today’s stage.
Fourth place was taken by Team Katusha’s Rodriguez and in the process he also won back the leader’s red jersey, which he held for one stage last week before Euskaltel’s Igor Anton immediately claimed it back. Anton’s race and hopes of victory came to an end on Saturday, though, when he crashed out.
Rodriguez replaces Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) – who took the overall lead following Anton’s retirement – after turning a four-second deficit to the Italian into a 33-second advantage following today’s stage.
Nibali drops to second place, while Spaniard Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) remains in third, 53 seconds behind Rodriguez.
Schleck of Team Saxo Bank climbed up from seventh to fourth following his impressive efforts today, but he is still two minutes and 16 seconds off the red jersey.
Tomorrow is a rest day with the Vuelta resuming on Wednesday with a 46km individual time trial in Penafiel. The 21st and final stage is in Madrid on Sunday.