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Nibali Time Trials Into Red; Rodriguez Demolished; Velits FTW

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Liquigas' Vincenzo Nibali overcame an early flat tire to ride back into the overall lead in today's decisive Vuelta a Espana time trial. Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha, starting the day in red, rode one of the worst time trials by an overall leader in some time, losing 4.16 to Nibali, whom he'd outdueled impressively in the mountains over the last week, and now Rodriguez can only dream of a podium place from his fifth position on GC.

One of the top stories, besides Nibali's exploding tire, was Ezequiel Mosquera, who only dropped 18 seconds to Nibali, and at 39" down overall retains some real hope of winning the Vuelta on Saturday's mega-mountain finish. It won't be easy, but the critics expected Zeke to drop out of contention, and the Xacobeo Galicia man defied that prediction gamely. The stage winner was a shocker too: Peter Velits of HTC-Columbia outkicked proven veteran cronoman Denis Menchov by 12 seconds and Fabian Cancellara by 37". Part of this can be explained (allegedly) by changing wind conditions, but Velits beat some great riders at the end and now sits only two minutes back overall, firmly in third. Stage results:

  1. Peter Velits, HTC-Columbia
  2. Denis Menchov, Rabobank, at 0.12
  3. Fabian Cancellara, Saxo Bank, at 0.37
  4. Gustav Larsson, Saxo Bank, at 0.53

GC is a two man battle. In the end we may be looking at that wheel change as the equivalent of Andy Schleck's chain suck in the Tour -- or worse, Cadel Evans' wheel change issue in last year's Vuelta. Without the mechanical, Vinny has a good 1.10 comfort zone over Mosquera.

  1. Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas
  2. Ezequiel Mosquera, Xacobeo Galicia, at 0.39
  3. Peter Velits, HTC, at 2.00
  4. Frank Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 3.44
  5. Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha, at 3.45