Today’s 230km from Piedrahita – Toledo (the longest of the Vuelta) featured a Cat 2 climb pretty much off the bat, setting up a perfect breakaway scenario which indeed happened.
A mostly lumpy course greeted the riders today and it was to be a curious set up as to how teams and favorites would address it. Tomorrow’s mainly mountainous stage will be the last chance for the GC to face any shakeups, so today sat mostly as a last chance for the late bloomers to shine in this year’s Vuelta. The four man break was established fairly early, featuring Dominik Roels (Team Milram), Xavier Florencio (Cervelo TestTeam), Manuel Ortega (Andalucia-Cajasur), and Josep Jufre (Astana).
While the stage as a whole lost altitude, starting at 1035m and descending to 490m, today’s finish was on a steep bit of uphill on a twisty final kilometer into Toledo’s old town. Not for the pure sprinters, no way, no how.
By 20km to go the pace of the peloton had ratcheted up under the impetus of several teams, and the break was surely doomed, as evidenced by Manuel Ortega (Andalucia-Cajasur) shaking his head at the moto camera as it went by. A once comfortable margin built over 200 km in the lead had been cut down significantly.
By 13 km to go, it was over. Well done, boys, after spending the better part of 200km off the front. Rabobank, Saxo Bank, and Lampre seemed to be spread across the front as the catch was made.
Mosquera and Nibali shadowed each other in the final 7km, with only 38 seconds separating them. Surely the Italian would be vigilant to not allow any sneaky moves today, and try to mark the pure climber tomorrow in the final mountainous day.
Lampre meanwhile drove on the front with Danilo Hondo setting a near 50km/hr speed. And the damage was being done as the road crept upward as some riders began to slip out the back. Road furniture on the approach to Toledo helped break some things up on riders who were forced to negotiate.
At 5 km the road ticked upward a little bit more. Gilbert lurked nearby but the Quick Step’s Barredo dug deep with a little move, stringing out the group. Gilbert sat 3rd wheel, Schleck, Nibali, and Mosquera all nearby. At 4km, Quick Step and Caisse d’Espargne sent ahead and a few others smelled danger and desperately began to bridge the gap. It all came back together briefly until Luis Leon Sanchez dug hard to try to extend the short break. HTC sent a man up front and the attacks and counter attacks were frantic and frequent. But again at 1km, and onto 100 meters of cobbles, the group was all too close together, but the speeds were high as everyone was in a straight line. FDJ sent a man to the front, and Garmin sat second wheel. Gilbert was still there. Farrar was right in the mix too. It became a two man battle up the steep final few hundred meters and it was Gilbert just nipping Farrar at the finish line as the other contenders were in shattered bits of what barely resembled a bunch came in behind. Notable among them was Nibali scoring a fine top ten, and gapping Mosquera, putting another 12 seconds into the Spaniard – certainly comforting going into the final day in the mountains tomorrow, and the smell of Madrid on the wind, where they’ll end up on Sunday.
Red jersey Nibali gets the shake from the Eagle of Toledo himself: Federico Bahamontes.
It’s coming down to the wire in this Vuelta, so stay tuned to PEZ for the best coverage you can get!
Results: Vuelta 2010 Stage 19
1 134 GILBERT, Philippe OLO 5h 43′ 41”
2 103 FARRAR, Tyler GRM m.t. 1є
3 189 POZZATO, Filippo KAT + 1”
4 15 HINAULT, Sйbastien ALM + 1”
5 179 VELITS, Peter THR + 1”
6 126 NIBALI, Vincenzo LIQ + 1”
7 144 MAES, Nikolas QST + 1”
8 112 BOLE, Grega LAM + 1”
9 121 BENNATI, Daniele LIQ + 1”
10 199 VOSS, Paul MRM + 1”
Vuelta 2010 Overall Aftre Stage 19
1 126 NIBALI, Vincenzo LIQ 80h 30′ 48”
2 211 MOSQUERA, Ezequiel XAC + 50”
3 179 VELITS, Peter THR + 1′ 59”
4 181 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin KAT + 3′ 54”
5 209 SCHLECK, Frank SAX + 3′ 57”
6 9 TONDO, Xavier CTT + 4′ 02”
7 11 ROCHE, Nicholas ALM + 4′ 10”
8 101 DANIELSON, Thomas GRM + 4′ 12”
9 8 SASTRE, Carlos CTT + 4′ 28”
10 58 SБNCHEZ, Luis Leуn GCE + 5′ 50”