Velits rides himself into contention as Nibali reclaims Vuelta lead
Peter Velits, stage winner, Vuelta a Espana 2010, stage 17 ITT
Vincenzo Nibali took back the race lead from Katusha's Joaquin Rodriguez on Wednesday's stage 17 time trial, which was won by HTC-Columbia's Peter Velits.
As expected, early starter Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) held the fastest time before any of the GC contenders came to the start ramp, although Omega Pharma-Lotto's Leif Hoste proved he has good form heading into the world championship road race in Australia, losing just 30 seconds to the Swiss and holding second place for much of the day, buoyed no doubt by his late inclusion to the Belgian squad for the world championships in Australia after Stijn Devolder pulled out citing poor form.
But defending time-trial world champion Cancellara's form had to be brought into question when Rabobank's Denis Menchov set the new fastest time by 25 seconds. The Russian started the day back in 42nd place, more than an hour down on race leader Rodriguez.
Cancellara rarely falters against the clock, but more than two weeks of hot, hard racing had clearly taken its toll. He should still be on top form come the Worlds TT on September 30.
Besides, Menchov didn't occupy top spot for too long: sixth-to-last man off Velits blitzed the flat, but windy, 46km course in 52-43, putting Menchov into second 12 seconds down, with Cancellara in third. It means that Slovakian Velits is now just two minutes off the race lead, up to third place on the GC from sixth overnight.
Nibali could only manage 15th on the stage, losing 1-54 to Velits, although the Italian was always going to beat Rodriguez. Even a puncture less than 10km into the stage couldn't stop Nibali taking the red jersey, losing around 30 seconds due to the wheel change.
Rodriguez, in turn, lost a huge 4-18 to Nibali, and over six minutes to Velits, dropping down to fifth overall, now 3-45 down on Nibali - surely too big a deficit to make up.
Ireland's Nicolas Roche dropped three places overall, and is now eighth, while Garmin's US GC hopeful, Tom Danielson, rode strongly to defend his seventh place.
It was a good day, too, for Worlds road-race favourite Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma), proving both his great form and that he should indeed be the man to beat in Geelong on October 3 by beating British TT specialist and Worlds TT hopeful David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) by three seconds to take ninth on the stage.
Thursday's 18th stage will be another one for the sprinters - can Mark Cavendish take a third stage win? - before hostilities resume again between the GC riders on Friday's undulating 19th stage, with Saturday's monster-mountain stage set to decide the Vuelta 2010 champion.
Vuelta a Espana 2010, stage 17: Penafiel to Penafiel, 46km
1. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Columbia in 52-43
2. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 12secs
3. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Saxo Bank at 37secs
4. Gustav Larsson (Swe) Saxo Bank at 50secs
5. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 1-03
6. Leif Hoste (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 1-07
7. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions at 1-10
8. Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step at 1-14
9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 1:24
10. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 1-27
Overall classification after stage 17
1.Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo in 71-19-49
2. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 39secs
3. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Columbia at 2-00
4. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 3-44
5. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 3-45
6. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo at same time
7. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Transitions at 3-55
8. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r at 4-03
9. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 4-13
10. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 5-43
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Stage reports
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Stage 16: Rodriguez regains Vuelta lead as Nibali suffers
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
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Photo galleries
Stage 16 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photos by Graham Watson