Elissonde Wins Stage 20 of Vuelta; Horner Pads Overall Lead
Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) is poised to win the Vuelta a Espana when the race ends tomorrow in Madrid. The American distanced Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on the Alto de L’Angliru to pad his overall lead. Ahead, Kenny Elissonde (Francaise des Jeux), the sole survivor of a daylong break, won Stage 20, a mountainous, 142.2-km ride from Aviles to Alto de L’Angliru, in 3:55:36. Horner finished second at 0:26, and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took third at 0:54.
After a number of abortive sallies, Benat Intxausti (Movistar) and Dario Cataldo (Sky) got clear at about 20 km and 30 other riders joined them. They were Jose Joao Mendes and Jan Barta (both from NetApp-Endura); Andriy Grivko, Paolo Tiralongo, and Jacob Fuglsang (all three from Astana); Vasily Kiryienka (Sky); Rinaldo Nocentini and Carlos Betancur (both from Ag2r-La Mondiale); Juan Jose Oroz (Euskaltel-Euskadi); Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-QuickStep); Bauke Mollema and Juan Manuel Garate (both from Belkin); Juan Antonio Flecha and Rafael Valls (both from Vacansoleil-DCM); Nicolas Edet and Jerome Coppel (both from Cofidis); David Arroyo, Antonio Piedra, and Andre Cardoso (both from Caja Rural-Seguros RGA); Maciej Paterski (Cannondale); Dominik Nerz and Ivan Santamorita (both from Team BMC Racing); Francis De Greef (Lotto-Belisol); Elissonde; Johannes Frohlinger (Argos-Shimano); Dmitry Kozontchuk and Angel Vicioso (both from Katusha); Imanol Erviti (Movistar); Dario Cataldo (Sky); and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida). At the base of the Category 3 Alto de la Cabrunana (40 km), the gaggle led the field by 4:24, and at the base of the descent, the break led the bunch by more than five minutes.
Grivko, Arroyo, and Piedra dropped the others, and Edet (Cofidis) and Kiryienka (Sky) joined the trio. At the base of the Category 2 Alto de Tenebredo (about 75 km), the escapees led the rest of the break by 1:15 and the bunch by 7:02. On the lower slopes of the climb, Piedra was dropped, although he eventually rejoined the leaders.
Most of the chasing break members rejoined the leaders at 94 km. Behind, Euskaltel-Euskadi led the peloton, which was 5:56 in arrears. With 37.6 km remaining, the bunch trailed the break by 5:39.
At the base of the Category 1 Alto del Cordal, with 26.6 km left, Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) attacked his break companions. Behind, Katusha joined Euskaltel-Euskadi at the front. At this point, the bunch was 5:38 behind the break. Three km later, Elissonde joined Tiralongo at the front. At the summit, the pair led a chase group composed of members of the original break by 0:34. The peloton was five minutes behind them.
Movistar led the red jersey group onto the Angliru. Ahead, Elissonde and Tiralongo led the heads of state by about four and a half minutes.
Katusha took over at the front. The Russian squad’s pacemaking reduced the red jersey group to fewer than 20 riders with 10 km remaining. The group trailed the two leaders by 3:38.
Three km later, with the red jersey group 2:32 behind Elissonde and Tiralongo, Nibali attacked. Nicolas Roche (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) was dropped. Horner chased, and Valverde and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) took his wheel. The red jersey group reeled in the Italian. Horner countered, but Nibali caught him. Tiralongo sat up to assist Nibali. Nibali attacked again and dropped Valverde.
Horner, Rodriguez, and Nibali caught Tiralongo with five km left. Ahead, Fuglsang (Astana), a member of the original break, sat up and waited for his team captain. Rodriguez accelerated and led the red jersey group to Fuglsang. Valverde got back on.
With the red jersey group two minutes behind Elissonde, Tiralongo