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Gilbert Wins, Nibali Gains, as Final Challenge Looms

Philippe Gilbert powered home on a long, slight uphill grade in Toledo to win today's 19th stage of the Vuelta a Espana, capping an exciting, up-and-down finale that saw some of the main challengers to overall leader Vincenzo Nibali lose precious seconds to the Liquigas man. The course approached Toledo over a climb, dropped down to a river crossing, and climbed up again to the town center, where Gilbert made his move off the wheel of Garmin-Transitions' David Millar in the final 500 meters. Gilbert actually thanked Millar's efforts for his win, which is odd since Millar's teammate Tyler Farrar closed in for second on the stage, ahead of Filippo Pozzato of Katusha, Sebastian Hinault of AG2R and an impressive Peter Velits of HTC. Farrar moves into second place overall in the points competition, 12 behind Mark Cavendish and 24 ahead of Gilbert, who scored his second stage win of the Vuelta.

Nibali's attentiveness gained him twelve seconds over Ezequiel Mosquera of Xacobeo Galicia, as well as several other GC men. Nibali rode in sixth on the stage, just behind Velits in the front group, at 1" to Gilbert, but Mosquera and Frank Schleck missed the split in the wild approach to the line and lost time. Obviously this is big news for Mosquera, who now sits 50" behind Nibali overall, with tomorrow's tense final mountain stage looming. Not sure it matters in the battle for fourth place, however. I would love to know what happened at the end, why Nibali was so astute and others weren't. I have to wonder if Nibali's former teammate Pozzato had anything to do with the Italian's good result. Otherwise, it's just heads-up work for the Shark today. Results:

  1. Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma
  2. Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Transitions, at 0.01
  3. Filippo Pozzato, Katusha, s.t.
  4. Sebastian Hinault, AG2R, s.t.
  5. Peter Velits, HTC, s.t.
  6. Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, s.t.

And the new GC:

  1. NIbali
  2. Zeke Mosquera, Xacobeo-Galicia, at 0.50
  3. Velits, at 1.59
  4. Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha, at 3.54
  5. Frank Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 3.57
Tomorrow is one of the biggest days of the year for cycling. And not just because I have my first cross race...