A classic edition of the Vuelta was decided in what will surely go down as a legendary finish on the brutal ramps of the Bola del Mundo, with barely 100m to go the two men at the top of he general classification were locked together the stage went to home favourite Ezequiel Mosquera but Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas-Doimo followed him home by barely a wheel length to virtually assure himself of victory in the race. Barring illness or some other major mishap on tomorrow’s procession into Madrid the 75th anniversary edition of the race belongs to Nibali.
As the race approached the foot of the brutal final climb, the Bola del Mundo (claimed to be harder even than Mont Ventoux, and Alberto Contador's favoured training climb) Johann Tschopp (Bbox) Ruben Plaza (Caisse d'Epargne) were out in front, but with a chasing pack made up of the most of their fellow members of the days's early escape bearing down on them, with the race leaders and the rest of the peloton in turn chasing them down. They were all together with the leaders on the front as the race hit the last 8km of the climb.
With 4Km to go Mosquera pounced following a softener from Frank Schleck (who almost immediately paid for his efforts) despite gapping Nibali he just couldn't get away and the Italian inched back on to the Spaniard's wheel. Mosquera though didn't ease up - his tactic was to crack Nibali as the Bola del Mundo ramped up on to its steepest final sections. As Mosquero went under the 3km kite he had 10 seconds on Nibali but he needed 51 (including the 20 second time bonus for the stage win) to take the red jersey. Nibali was not letting go of that jersey though - and of course there was a 12 second time bonus on offer for second place too. With half a kilometre to go Nibali started to come back once again. As the metres wound down to the finish Nibali surged back on to Mosquero's wheel. The race was his. The stage was Mosquera's by little more than half a wheel.
Team Katusha's Joaquin Rodriguez was third, but couldn't do enough to overhaul Peter Velits for third place on the overall standing, Frank Schleck came in fourth, Xavier Tondo fifth an Nicholas Roche sixth
In surely doing enought to win 2010’s third and final grand tour, the 25-year-old Sicilian, nicknamed ‘Lo Squalo del Stretto’ – ‘The Shark of the Straits,’ a reference to his home town of Messina – thereby caps a fantastic year in which he came third behind team mate Ivan Basso in the Giro d’Italia, a race he wasn’t even supposed to participate in, the rider called up as an eleventh hour replacement for the suspended Franco Pellizotti.
Meanwhile, with today’s stage including the final categorised climbs of the race, David Moncoutié of Cofidis did enough to retain the polka dot jersey, and with the colour of the dots changed to avoid a clash with the race leader’s jersey, he now has a blue and white number to hang in the wardrobe next to the red and white jersey he won 12 months ago
One piece of unfinished business tomorrow is the points competition, where Tyler Farrar of Garmin Transitions trails HTC-Columbia’s Mark Cavendish by 12 points. Cavendish is seeking to become the only British rider after Malcolm Elliott in 1989 to win a points jersey at a grand tour.
Vuelta Stage 20 result
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'' 11 SASTRE, Carlos (CTT) + 1' 27'' 12 PUJOL, Oscar (CTT) + 1' 30'' 13 DUPONT, Hubert (ALM) + 1' 33'' 14 JUFRÉ, Josep (AST) + 1' 32'' 15 KREUZIGER, Roman (LIQ) + 1' 32'' 16 SÁNCHEZ, Luis León (GCE) + 1' 32'' 17 DANIELSON, Thomas (GRM) + 1' 46'' 18 GARCÍA, David (XAC) + 1' 50'' 19 CARUSO, Giampaolo (KAT) + 1' 55'' 20 URAN, Rigoberto (GCE) + 2' 07''
Top 20 General Classification Vuelta a Espana after stage 20
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'' 8 SASTRE, Carlos (CTT + 6' 06'' 9 DANIELSON, Thomas (GRM) + 6' 09'' 10 SÁNCHEZ, Luis León (GCE) + 7' 33'' 11 GARCÍA, David (XAC) + 9' 37'' 12 NIEVE, Mikel (EUS) + 10' 42'' 13 KARPETS, Vladimir (KAT) + 13' 05'' 14 MONCOUTIE, David (COF) + 14' 00'' 15 LE MEVEL, Christophe (FDJ) + 16' 36'' 16 PLAZA, Ruben (GCE) + 16' 40'' 17 GUSEV, Vladimir (KAT) + 17' 54'' 18 KASHECHKIN, Andrey (LAM) + 20' 58'' 19 BAKELANDTS, Jan (OLO) + 24' 40'' 20 LARSSON, Gustav (SAX) + 25' 08''
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