Big breakaway group stays away to contest finale today, Nibali tests race leader's resolve...

Michael Albasini of HTC-Highroad outsprinted his fellow members of a big breakaway group to win Stage 13 of the 2011 Vuelta in Ponferrada this afteroon. Eros Cappecchi of Liquigas Cannondale finished second, with Daniel Moreno of Katusha third. Team Sky's Bradley WIggins retains the race lead, coming home in the group containing the main GC contenders 1 minute 32 seconds down on the winner, while Vincenzo Nibali, who gained bonus seconds at the day's first intermediate sprint, jumps to second, with Chris Froome dropping to third.

Albasini, overall winner of last year’s Tour of Britain after a spectacular stage victory when he led the race up the rain-soaked cobbles of Swansea’s Constitution Hill, had tried to attack on his own inside the rather flatter closing kilometres of today’s stage, but despite being pegged back, the Swiss rider wasn’t disheartened and proved strongest in the sprint.

The 18-strong members of the group that contested the finale in the city that is almost certain to host the 2014 UCI Road World Championships had got away prior to the second of the day’s climbs in a breakaway of more than 30 riders.

That break briefly including defending champion Nibali, who had bridged across on the previous descent, and Wiggins himself.

Had that pair remained in the front group, it would never have been allowed to stay away since their rivals in the GC would have been forced to respond, and they soon dropped back to the peloton.

That allowed the front group to stay clear, although with its best place member, Katusha’s Moreno starting the day 3 minutes 39 seconds down on the race leader, it wouldn’t be allowed to build too much of an advantage.

Nevertheless, the 8 bonus seconds the Spaniard picked up for finishing third helped him rise to 9th in the overall standings.

Back down the road, Wiggins needed to keep his wits about him on a day that included two Category 1 climbs as his rivals sought to wrest the race lead from him.

The move that presented most serious threat to the British champion’s hold on the red jersey again involved Nibali, the Liquigas-Cannondale man, together with Rabobank’s Bauke Mollema, who followed an attack instigated by the man who started the day third overall, Fredrik Kessiakoff of Astana.

That came on the descent of the Category 1 Puerto de Ancares and at one point the select group had an advantage of nearly a minute over Wiggins, but helped by his Team Sky colleagues, the race leader managed to keep their calm and slowly reel that group in.

With two more big days in the mountains coming up this weekend though, including the ascent of the Angliru on Sunday, Wiggins' lead is certain to come under severe pressure, particularly with the Vuelt, unlike the Tour de France, giving bonus seconds for the first three men across the finish line, as well as at intermediate sprints.

Vuelta Stage 13 Result 
1  ALBASINI, Michael   HTC-Highroad             4h 19' 39''
2  CAPECCHI, Eros      Liquigas Cannondale   Same time as winner
3  MORENO, Daniel      Katusha                       "
4  DE LA FUENTE, David Geox-TMC                      "
5  ROCHE, Nicolas      AG2R La Mondiale              "
6  ZAUGG, Oliver       Leopard Trek                  "
7  MADRAZO, Angel      Movistar                      "
8  BLANCO, David       Geox-TMC                      "
9  NIEVE, Mikel        Euskaltel-Euskadi             "
10 DE MAAR, Marc       Quick Step                    "
11 MONCOUTIE, David    Cofidis                       "
12 LÓPEZ, David        Movistar                      "
13 KAISEN, Olivier     Omega Pharma-Lotto            "
14 SEELDRAYERS, Kevin  Quick Step                    "
15 SÖRENSEN, Chris     Saxo Bank-SunGard             "
16 LOSADA, Alberto     Katusha                       "
17 SASTRE, Carlos      Geox-TMC                      "
18 VERDUGO, Gorka      Euskaltel-Euskadi             "
19 TXURRUKA, Amets     Euskaltel-Euskadi               + 3''
20 BAKELANDTS, Jan     Omega Pharma-Lotto    Same time as winner *

* Crashed inside last 3km

Vuelta Overall Standings after Stage 13 
1  WIGGINS, Bradley    Team Sky                 51h 14' 59''
2  NIBALI, Vincenzo    Liquigas-Cannondale             + 4''
3  FROOME, Christopher Team Sky                        + 7''
4  KESSIAKOFF, Fredrik Astana                          + 9''
5  FUGLSANG, Jakob     Leopard Trek                    + 19''
6  MOLLEMA, Bauke      Rabobank                        + 36''
7  MONFORT, Maxime     Leopard Trek                 + 1' 04''
8  COBO, Juan José     Geox TMC                     + 1' 27''
9  MORENO, Daniel      Katusha                      + 1' 52''
10 ZUBELDIA, Haimar    RadioShack                   + 1' 53''

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.