Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) regained control of the Vuelta a Espana after Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) suffered on the way to stage 16’s mountain-top finish.
The stage honours went to Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) who took his first major victory atop Alto de Cotobello with a fine solo effort.
Behind him, the fight for overall classification among the favourites raged with Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) putting in a concerted effort to claw back some time from his rivals. Schleck’s work netted him second place on the stage and served to splinter the leaders’ group, ending Nibali’s reign in the red jersey. Belgian Kevin De Weert (Quick Step) took third.
Nibali under attack
Overall leader Nibali had looked strong going into a stage featuring two first category peaks – Puerto de San Lorenzo and Alto de Cobertoria – before the final hornet’s sting of a finale up Alto de Cotobello. But the young Italian had his strength tested to the limit by the incessant attacks that were launched by a string of contenders. Despite help from Liquigas team-mate Roman Kreuziger, he cracked.
Rodriguez capitalised on the situation, leaving Nibali behind and opening up a gap that easily cancelled out his four-second deficit on the Italian in the overall classification. Nibali now lies 33 seconds behind Rodriguez in this rollercoaster ride of a Vuelta.
Schleck’s hard work netted him fourth place overall, whilst Ireland’s Nicolas Roche (Ag2r) continues to ride strongly, finishing eighth on the stage and maintaining his fifth place overall.
All of the riders will be thankful that Tuesday is the race’s second rest day before the action resumes on Wednesday with the Vuelta’s only individual time trial – a 46km test against the clock around Penafiel.
Vuelta a Espana 2010, stage 16: Gijon to Alto de Cotobello, 181.4km
1. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
2. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 1-06
3. Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick Step at 1-08
4. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1-22
5. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1-32
6. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 1-40
7. David Garcia (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 1-42
8. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r at 1-44
9. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 1-50
10. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at 1-59
Overall classification after stage 16
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha in 70-24-39
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at 33 secs
3. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 53 secs
4. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 2-16
5. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r at 3-01
6. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Columbia at 4-27
7. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Transitions at 4-29
8. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervelo at 4-43
9. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 4-53
10. David Garcia (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 6-23
Frank Schleck attacks
Mikel Nieve takes the stage win
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Related links
Stage 15: Barredo finally bags a grand tour stage
Stage 14: Nibali gains Vuelta lead after Anton crashes
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