Dramatic time trial sees Rodriguez slip to 5th overall

Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas-Doimo survived an early scare that forced him to change bikes in the Stage 17 individual time trial at Peñafiel this afternoon to get back into the leader’s jersey in the Vuelta a España, as this morning’s leader, Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez, suffered a disastrous day, slipping to fifth overall. Peter Velits of HTC-Columbia put in a stunning ride to clinch the stage and now lies third with a podium place in Madrid on Sunday within his grasp.

Rodriguez admitted after taking back the red jersey on Monday’s Stage 16 to Cotobello that he would lose time to Nibali on today’s 46km course, but even in his worst nightmares he couldn’t have anticipated losing 4 minutes 18 seconds to the Sicilian, let alone slipping out of the podium places.

Ezequiel Mosquera of Xacobeo-Galicia, who is being linked with a move to Vacansoleil next season, set a time of 54:56 and is now second overall, 39 seconds behind Nibali. The stage is now set for a thrilling climax to the battle for the general classification on the ascent to the Bola del Mundo outside Madrid on Saturday, with the Spaniard mindful that Nibali cracked once he had lost the services of team mate Roman Kreuziger on Monday’s final climb – but that finale will now be missing the Katusha rider.

Nibali, 15th today with a time of 54:37, has been one of the revelations of the 2010 season, finishing third in May’s Giro d’Italia behind team mate Ivan Basso, a race in which the he had not even been named in the original Liquigas-Doimo line-up – the 25-year-old had been holidaying in Sicily when he was called up as a late replacement for the suspended Franco Pellizotti.

One final effort on Saturday should see him crowned Vuelta winner the following day, but Mosquera equally has everything to ride for, and with time bonuses on offer for the first three finishers, it’s in his interests to go for broke on that final climb of this year’s race.

Unsurprisingly, it had been World and Olympic Champion Fabian Cancellara, the strong favourite for today’s 46km stage, who set the best time early on, clocking 53:20, but that time was well beaten by Rabobank’s Denis Menchov, twice winner of the Vuelta, who put a disappointing edition of the race behind him to set a time 25 seconds faster than the Swiss rider.

That seemed set to be the day’s fastest time until HTC-Columbia’s Peter Velits went 12 seconds quicker than the Russian at 52:43 to claim the stage after riding a stunningly quick last 15km, having been around a minute down at the second intermediate time check, perhaps benefiting from a favourable change in wind direction.

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s Stage 18, which covers 149km from Valladolid to Salamanca, sees the resumption of the battle for the green jersey. Mark Cavendish has an 18-point lead over Rodriguez, but his only realistic challenger is the Garmin-Transitions sprinter, Tyler Farrar, who lies three points further back in third place.

Vuelta Stage 17 result 

1  VELITS, Peter	    (HTC-Columbia)	      52' 43''
2 MENCHOV, Denis (Rabobank) + 12''
3 CANCELLARA, Fabian (Team Saxo Bank) + 37''
4 LARSSON, Gustav (Team Saxo Bank) + 50''
5 SÁNCHEZ, Luis León (Caisse d'Epargne) + 1' 03''
6 HOSTE, Leif (Omega Pharma-Lotto) + 1' 07''
7 ZABRISKIE, David (Garmin-Transitions) + 1' 10''
8 BARREDO, Carlos (Quickstep) + 1' 14''
9 GILBERT, Philippe (Omega Pharma-Lotto) + 1' 24''
10 MILLAR, David (Garmin-Transitions) + 1' 27''
11 TONDO, Xavier (Cervelo TestTeam) + 1' 29''
12 KARPETS, Vladimir (Katusha) + 1' 46''
13 SASTRE, Carlos (Cervelo TestTeam) + 1' 47''
14 DANIELSON, Thomas (Garmin-Transitions) + 1' 53''
15 NIBALI, Vincenzo (Liquigas-Doimo) + 1' 54''
16 VOGONDY, Nicolas (Bbox Bougues Telecom) + 1' 59''
17 NIERMANN, Grischa (Rabobank) + 2' 01''
18 GUSEV, Vladimir (Katusha) + 2' 01''
19 MOSQUERA, Ezequiel (Xacobeo-Galicia) + 2' 13''
20 LÓPEZ, David (Caisse d'Epargne) + 2' 14''


Vuelta overall standings after Stage 17


1 NIBALI, Vincenzo          (Liquigas-Doimo)      71h 19' 49''
2 MOSQUERA, Ezequiel        (Xacobeo-Galicia)           + 39''
3 VELITS, Peter             (HTC-Columbia)           + 2' 00''
4 SCHLECK, Frank            (Team Saxo Bank)         + 3' 44''
5 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin        (Katusha)                + 3' 45''
6 TONDO, Xavier             (Cervelo TestTeam)       + 3' 45''
7 DANIELSON, Thomas         (Garmin-Transitions)     + 3' 55''
8 ROCHE, Nicholas           (AG2R-La Mondiale)       + 4' 03''
9 SASTRE, Carlos            (Cervelo TestTeam)       + 4' 13''
10 SÁNCHEZ, Luis León       (Caisse d'Epargne)       + 5' 43''
11 GARCÍA, David            (Xacobeo-Galicia)        + 7' 19''
12 KARPETS, Vladimir        (Katusha)                + 8' 52''
13 NIEVE, Mikel             (Euskaltel-Euskadi)      + 9' 24''
14 MONCOUTIE, David         (Cofidis)               + 10' 37''
15 GUSEV, Vladimir          (Katusha)               + 12' 18''
16 PLAZA, Ruben             (Caisse d'Epargne)      + 13' 55''
17 LE MEVEL, Christophe     (Francaise des Jeux)    + 15' 13''
18 KASHECHKIN, Andrey       (Lampre-Farnese Vini)   + 16' 14''
19 BAKELANDTS, Jan          (Omega Pharma-Lotto)    + 19' 27''
20 LARSSON, Gustav          (Team Saxo Bank)        + 19' 40''

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.