Roche rues slip as Nibali sits pretty in Spain
Italy's Vincenzo Nibali regained the overall lead in the Tour of Spain after yesterday's individual time trial, but holds only a slender lead over Spain's Ezequiel Mosquera. Despite an early puncture, the Liquigas-Doimo rider finished the 17th stage a solid 15th after the completely flat 46km course through lush vineyards, which was won by Slovakia's Peter Velits.
Despite an early puncture, the Liquigas-Doimo rider finished the 17th stage a solid 15th after the completely flat 46km course through lush vineyards, which was won by Slovakia's Peter Velits.
Mosquera was 19th and is only 39 seconds behind in the overall standings, with Peter Velits in third, two minutes back. Overnight leader Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain slumped to fifth overall after he finished a disappointing 105th on the time trial.
Nibali recognised that Mosquera was a dangerous challenge to his drive for victory in the tour, which ends on Sunday in Madrid.
"There's only Mosquera left to worry about now but he's going to be a big threat," the 25-year-old Sicilian, third in the Tour of Italy in May, said.
Nibali said his front wheel puncture had failed to unsettle him, although it came at a very bad moment. "Fortunately I didn't panic, and I only lost a few seconds when it could have been a lot more."
Mosquera's team manager at Xacobeo-Galicia, Alvaro Pino, was delighted his rider continued to run Nibali so close.
"We'll be looking to get that overall lead on Saturday's mountain stage," said Pino, a former winner of the Tour of Spain.
Meanwhile, Ireland's Nicolas Roche slipped from fifth to eighth place having gained 25 seconds on Frank Schleck at the halfway point.
While Roche had been keeping a solid 56-57kph average for a large part of the trial, he faded terribly with three kilometres to go to register a time of 56 minutes and 12 seconds for 38th place on the stage.
"Although I was prepared to lose one place to Velits today, I wasn't ready to lose three places," he said.
"To lose less than three minutes to world time trial champion Cancellara is not disgraceful, but I just didn't do as good a ride as I hoped for. To have fought so hard for the past three weeks and then to give away time on a stage like this makes me angry."