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Under maximum pressure from Ezequiel Mosquera, his only rival for victory at the Vuelta a Espana, Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas died a thousand deaths on the slopes of the Bola del Mundo only to rise again, time after time, and preserve his margin of victory for his first grand tour win. Mosquera attacked with three km to go, as the course approached the ski slopes on rough roads with short ramps of up to 20%, and Mosquera's advantage over Nibali approached 20 seconds at times. With the rest of the field left behind, Mosquera seemed assured of a stage win time bonus of 20", with Nibali getting the 12" for second, leaving another 42" between them. But every time a ramp hurt Nibali, the subsequent flatter portion allowed Nibali to claw back. In the final 300 meters Mosquera seemed to slow, or Nibali was seized by the inspiration of knowing he had won the day, and the Sicilian caught Mosquera within sight of the line. Mosquera nipped his rival for the stage win, but the far bigger prize just eluded him.

On the whole, today was a beautiful, epic day, even if the tactics called for us to be patient. The last 3km was a mano-a-mano duel taking place in a sea of fog and humanity, as great a scene as the sport (or any sport) can offer. The two riders clearly went to that deep, dark place in order to do what they had to. And in the end, Mosquera simply had the taller task.

Stage results:

1 MOSQUERA, Ezequiel XAC 4h 45’ 28’’
2 NIBALI, Vincenzo LIQ + 1’’
3 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin KAT + 23’’
4 SCHLECK, Frank SAX + 35’’
5 TONDO, Xavier CTT + 39’’
6 ROCHE, Nicholas ALM + 42’’
7 NIEVE, Mikel EUS + 50’’
8 VELITS, Peter THR + 52’’
9 LE MEVEL, Christophe FDJ + 55’’
10 DI GREGORIO, Rémy FDJ + 1’ 00’’

Soon-to-be-final GC:

1 NIBALI, Vincenzo LIQ 85h 16’ 05’’
2 MOSQUERA, Ezequiel XAC + 41’’
3 VELITS, Peter THR + 3’ 02’’
4 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin KAT + 4’ 20’’
5 SCHLECK, Frank SAX + 4’ 43’’
6 TONDO, Xavier CTT + 4’ 52’’
7 ROCHE, Nicholas ALM + 5’ 03’’