Overall standings: 1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 85:16:05, 2 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia 0:00:41, 3 Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC-Columbia 0:03:02, 4 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha 0:04:20, 5 Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank 0:04:43, 6 Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo 0:04:52, 7 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2R 0:05:03, 8 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervélo 0:06:06, 9 Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Transitions 0:06:09, 10 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0:07:33
San Martín de Valdeiglesias - Bola del Mundo
Vuelta a España - 18 September 2010
Vuelta a España – Follow this cycling race live with Eurosport. The action starts at 11:37 on 18 September 2010. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.
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Confirmation: Mosquera took the stage ahead of Nibali with Rodriguez in third (+21), Schleck fourth (+35), Tondo fifth (+39) and Roche fifth (+42). Nieve, Velits, Le Mevel and Di Gregorio came over next, in that order.
Vincenzo Nibali is close to tears on the finish line: he will be the 2010 Vuelta champion by 41 seconds in Madrid.
Schleck, Roche, Rodriguez and Tondo all cross the line in drips and drabs - but it's hard to see because of the mist and the poor pictures. Velits seems to have lost a bit of time. Full confirmation coming up...
Mosquera holds on - just! The stage victory goes to Mosquera, but Nibali finished right behind to all but seal overall victory in the Vuelta.
Yes, Nibali has caught Mosquera!
Not long to go now - and Nibali may even catch Mosquera! What a finish this will be from the Shark.
Just eight seconds now...
Mosquera is giving it everything but the gap is coming down. Nibali is a true champion. The 25 year-old is on the verge of a maiden grand tour triumph.
The Italian gets it together and has Mosquera back in his sights - despite the heavy mist descending at the top of this ski resort peak.
NIBALI HITS THE WALL!! Nibali looks like he's almost stationary. He needs to get over this or it could be dicey...
The fans are quite stiffling as Mosquera approaches the one-to-go banner. The gap is only 15 seconds.
Mosquera is in the dancing position again - he knows that he needs more time over Nibali. Further back there is no sign of Danielson, Sastre or Tondo: they've all blown.
Classy riding by Nibali. He can see Mosquera in his sights and knows that as long as he keeps it like this he will be in red tonight - even with those 8 aggregate bonus seconds up for grabs at the finish.
The chasing group contains Rodriguez, Velits, Roche and Schleck. There is no Tondo so Roche could move up the standings.
Mosquera looks very calm for someone who has said he hasn't been able to sleep properly for the last few days.
The red jersey of Vincenzo Nibali is swaying on his bike, giving it his all to reduce the deficit. All the support is with the Spaniard further up the road. The gap is about 15 seconds now.
Mosquera has 7 seconds over Nibali. He needs more than that if he wants to win the Vuelta.
The crowds are pretty huge which adds an intimidating atmosphere because the roads are so narrow as it is.
Nibali looks to be in trouble! Mosquera is in the dancing position and has opened up a gap. Nibali just has to keep going and to make sure the gap doesn't get too big.
On to the concrete ramps! Now it gets going: 20% gradient until the end with the Vuelta's two top dogs Nibali and Mosquera out in front.
Great riding by Nibali. He's pulling Mosquera back doing it his way: grinding out and riding on. The others have all dropped as the Italian catches the Spaniard.
Mosquera has quite a few bike lengths now. Nibali can't match his explosive pace!
MOSQUERA ATTACKS! Nibali, Schleck, Velits, Tondo and Roche manage to hold his wheel. Danielson has popped.
Schleck attacks! Here we go, now it's going to kick off. Mosquera takes his wheel, with Nibali following suit.
Under the six-to-go banner they go. Kadri has been caught. A little attack comes in from an Euskaltel rider and a Cervelo man. Names coming up. Yes, it's Txurruka and Pujol. They have a small gap. Back in the bunch, Mosquera is being paced by team-mate David Garcia. Nibali looks calm - maybe too calm. Kreuziger is quite a bit further forward than him, followed by Tondo.
It's the calm before the storm as the peloton thins out. Nibali and Mosquera are inseparable. In terms of GC, just 30 seconds splits 5th to 9th place so there is a lot to play for for everyone in the top ten. Kreuziger leads the peloton now.
Tondo, Sastre, Danielson, Roche, Vande Velde and Schleck are all there too.
Di Gregorio is caught after his futile attempt to break clear.
Nibali only has Roman Kreuziger in support now after his Liquigas team-mates all drop back. Mosquera just has one team-mate too: looks like Serafin Martinez.
Nibali is right in Mosquera's wheel, with Velits just behind. These three should be on the podium tomorrow in Madrid: but in what order?
Remi di Gregorio attacks! The French FdJ rider has a pop from the peloton - ambitious.
Peter Velits, third in the GC, is holding the wheel of Nibali, with Mosquera a few places further up. Gusev and Plaza have been caught by the peloton. Just Kadri ahead now, but he's pulling up.
Plaza looks exhausted but he manages to hold on in there with Kadri and Gusev. They have 14 seconds on the Moncoutie chasing trio, with the bunch just another handful of seconds back.
The Bolo del Mondo has never been used in the Vuelta. The early parts are 8.7% but the final 3km are a gruelling 20% gradient. The time gaps could be quite astonishing.
Kadri goes on the attack. Only Gusev can react. Oh no, Plaza's there too. The gap is just 20 seconds now.
The six leaders have just 40 seconds over the peloton now. The road is about to start kick up.
More of that break are being swept up by the peloton, but the real action is yet to start. Stay tuned: it's all about to kick off!
Vincenzo Nibali looks very calm back in the peloton. He's less than an hour away from a debut grand tour victory - providing he can not concede more than 50 seconds to rival Ezequiel Mosquera.
Gusev, Cuesta, Plaza, Kadri and Cheula and Toribio are the six riders out in front now. The peloton is 1:07 back.
The breakaway group is beginning to splinter. Two or three riders have hit the wall and are dropping back. The harmony has gone.
There are five Xacobeo-Galicia riders, including Mosquera, driving the peloton with Nibali and six other Liquigas riders just behind. Then there are a few Saxo Bank riders, including Frank Schleck.
Leading group: Ruben Plaza and David Lopez (both Caisse d'Epargne), Johann Tschopp and Vincent Jerome (Bbox), Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Jan Bakelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto), David Moncoutie (Cofidis), Mikel Nieve and Amets Txurruka (both Euskaltel), Mikael Cherel (FdJ), Delio Fernandez (Xacobeo Galicia), Jose Toribio (Andalucia CajaSur), Blel Kadri (AG2R), Inigo Cuesto (Cervelo), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and Kanstansin Sivtsov (HTC-Columbia).
The leading group is completely nailing it ahead of the final climb to Bolo del Mundo. Some of those guys are really going to suffer out there once the road heads uphill. The gap is 1:42. Nibali now has six Liquigas team-mates around him.
The two leaders Plaza and Tschopp are about to be caught by the chasing group, which includes Euskaltel pair Txurruka and Nieve, Codifis' Moncoutie and the remnants of the initial breakaway. The gap back to the peloton is 1:31.
It's the Xacobeo team of Mosquera that front the peloton, with Nibali's Liquigas troupe tucked in just behind.
The pace has dropped in the peloton in anticipation of the final - and decisive - test of this year's Vuelta.
Huge crowds have gathered at the finish. The road surface is terrible: just concrete slabs, many of which have huge pot holes in them. The roads are exposed and narrow while the slope is just brutal. Riders could lose minutes today, let alone seconds.
The sun is out and it looks like those rain clouds that affected the race earlier are behind the riders now. Shaping up to be a dry finale then - which will suit Mosquera to a tee.
The two leaders have 1:04 over the Moncoutie trio (which have caught the remnants of the initial breakaway group) with the peloton a further 22 seconds back.
Nibali has five team-mates with him on the front of the peloton: the Italian is in a great position to win the Vuelta at his first attempt.
Your comments continue to drip through. Private is clearly a Mosquera fan: "Nibs will crack on the final climb. First mentally then physically. It’s happened so many times before to so many riders snatching defeat out of the wheels of victory. Watch him grovel when he cracks!"
Leading duo Plaza and Tschopp make their way through the town of Cercedilla. The streets are narrow, the road surface terrible. Lots of support out.
The chasing group of Moncoutie, Txurruka and Nieve cross the summit 1:20 down on the leaders. The pack is at 1:50. On the descent, red jersey Nibali is flanked by a cluster of Liquigas team=-mates.
Plaza crosses the summit of the first cetegory Puerto de Navacerrada in pole position ahead of Tschopp. Kadri takes third ahead of Cuesta, 20 seconds back.
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Gusev is riding solo five seconds behind Plaza and Tschopp. Kadri, Cuesta and Bakelandts are 16 seconds back. Back in the peloton, Rabobank's Denis Menchov attacks. The gap to the leaders is 1:22.
The Puerto de Navacerrada is a first category climb which lasts 7km at an average gradient of 7.5%. Expect some fireworks.
Back in the peloton, stage 16 winner Mikel Nieve and Euskaltel team-mate Amets Txurruka try their luck. David Moncoutie manages to join them. Further up with the leaders, Plaza and Tschopp pull clear.
The leading group is a bit of a shambles, with Vincent Jerome the latest to have a pop after Inigo Cuesta turns up the pace a little. With so little cohesion, they won't be out for much longer.
Plaza chases down Gallopin and the leaders are back together. Their days are severely numbered. Jean-Christophe Peraud has already been caught by the pack.
Tony Gallopin attacks from the breakaway group right at the start of the Puerto de Navacerrada.
According to the latest time check the lead has been cut dramatically to just 1:10. With so much to play for today, expect the first moves to happen on this next slope before the final drive up to Bolo del Mundo. The tension is palpable.
The lead has grown back over the two-minute mark. Latest check is 2:07 as the escapees roll towards the nursery slopes of the first category Puerto de Navacerrada. Back in the peloton, it's the Saxo Bank team of Frank Schleck that are setting the pace alongside Ezequiel Mosquera's Xacobeo-Galicia outfit.
Keep the comments coming in below. A particularly piquante one in just now from Cleve: "Mosquero's a fruitcake if he thinks he can beat the Nibs - Nibs will wipe up the pavement with his competitor." Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts below...
Philippe Gilbert takes the points at the intermediate sprint at Granja ahead of Jan Bakelandts and Ruben Plaza.
The gap has dropped under two minutes for the first time.
It's been a pretty laboured race for Pippo Pozzato. The Italian didn't make his mark on any stage and was definitely riding with an eye on the World Championships. Pozzato has been open about his methods for retaining concentration ahead of the big race Down Under in Melbourne: a sex ban. It's been six months since the Katusha man has had any action between the sheets...
Latest time check: 2:54. News filtering in about the withdrawal of Katusha's Filippo Pozzato.
Flat tyre back in the peloton for Serafin Martinez, Mosquera's primary general in the mountains.
On the last ascent Luis Pasmontes (Caisse d'Epargne) and Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) managed to pull out of the peloton and build up a small lead. All in vain: the pair have been caught on this plateau which takes the riders on to La Navacerrada.
The escapees hit the feeding zone with a lead of 3:45. The rain has stopped and the temperature is 17 degrees.
Reminder of the leaders: Jan Bakelandts, Jean-Christophe Peraud, Philippe Gilbert and Leif Hoste (Omega-Lotto), Tony Gallopin (Cofidis), Vincent Jerome and Johann Tschoop (Bbox), Inigo Cuesta (Cervelo), Gustavo Cesar (Xacobeo), Danilo Hondo (Lampre), Vladimir Gusev and Cheula Giampaolo (Katusha), David Arroyo and Ruben Plaza (Caisse d'Epargne), Jose Toribio (Andalucia-Cajasur), Kanstantin Siutsou (HTC-Columbia), Biel Kadri (Ag2R), Jose Oroz (Euskaltel).
Speaking to reporters at the start today, Mosquera admitted: "I have only one tactic: attack, attack and attack." The Spaniard denied that he was in on the idea to prepare a special red bike in the event of his taking over at the summit: "I didnt know we had prepared a new red bike if I was a leader," the 34 year-old said, adding: "The pressure is not on my shoulders but on the rider who has the red jersey."
The average speed for the first hour of racing today was 39.1 km/h and for the second hour it was 36.2 km/h.
Philippe Gilbert leads the escapees over the summit of the Alto del Leon, followed by Tony Gallopin, Inigo Cuesta, Johan Tschopp and Ruben Plaza. The lead has dropped slightly to 3:16. A couple of riders from the break - Joan Horrach and Jose Garcia Acosta - have been caught by the pack.
Rumour has it that Mosquera and his Xacobea-Galicia team are so confident of snatching the lead today that a special red bike has been prepared for tomorrow's final stage into Madrid. There's still a lot of racing to be done before we can talk of veteran Mosquera becoming a Vuelta champion.
The peloton is now being led by the Katusha team-mates of Joaquin Rodriguez, who wore the red jersey on two occasions in this race - both times just for one day. The lead is 3:30.
Want to know more about today's mouth watering tussle between Nibali and Mosquera? Well read the latest Blazin' Saddles blog:
Usually the pass drops down towards Madrid, but this year the route sees the riders turn onto a minor road that leads up to a cluster of telecommunications masts that stand another 300m uphill. These final three kilometres of the Bolo del Mundo are brutal, with ramps as steep as 20 percent. What's more, there is no tarmac surface to the road, just narrow slabs of concrete riddled with holes and divots, not so much weaving up the mountain as heading pretty much straight up at an infeasible angle.
Spain's Mosquera has promised to attack today as he searches to find a chink in red jersey Nibali to overturn a 50 second deficit. The location for the super showdown between Nibali and Mosquera today is the Bola del Mundo, a brand new tortuous conclusion to the precipitous Navacerrada pass north of Madrid. More info coming right up...
The leaders are on to the first category Alto del Leon (average gradient of 6.9% with a maximum of 13.8%). They have 4:35 over the peloton. It's apparently very wet at the finish so get ready for an epic showdown in a few hours' time.
Close at the top:
Missed yesterday's tense finale in Toledo?
Light rain has started to fall as the riders pass El Escorial, the impressive yet quite brutal looking palace and historical residence of the king of Spain.
Back in the peloton it's the Garmin team of Tom Danielson who are doing the pace setting. The gap is 3:25.
At the summit of the the Alto de la Cruz Verde Tony Gallopin takes 3 points ahead of Cuesta (2pts) and Gilbert (1pt). The Cofidis rider has clearly been told by his directeur sportif to wipe up as many points as possible so as to preserve Moncoutie's lead in the climbing competition.
The lead is 1:45 over the peloton. Interesting to see four Omega Pharma-Lotto riders there, including Philippe Gilbert, winner of yesterday's stage.
The 19 riders are: Inigo Cuesta (Cervelo), Blel Kadri (AG2R), Jose Vicente Toribio (Andalucia), Johann Tschopp and Vincent Jérôme (Bbox), David Arroyo and Ruben Plaza (Caisse d'Epargne), Tony Gallopin (Cofidis), Juan Jose Oroz (Euskaltel), Giampaolo Cheula (Footon-Servetto), Danilo Hondo (Lampre), Jan Bakelants, Philippe Gilbert, Leif Hoste and Jean-Christophe Péraud (Lotto), Kanstantsin Sioutsou (HTC), Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) and Gustavo Cesar Veloso (Xacobeo).
The Moncoutie group is pulled back thanks to work done by the Liquigas team of race leader Vincenzo Nibali. But another one soon forms. Names coming right up.
A bunch of 15 riders, including polka dot jersey Davide Moncoutie, have built up a little lead over the peloton. The Frenchman obviously in search of those climbing points which will ensure him the king of the mountains jersey.
Carlos Barredo, winner of stage 15, takes a tumble right at the start. It's nothing too serious and the Quick Step man rejoins the peloton.
The sun's out and the temperatures are 18 degrees centigrade at Navacerrada. Rumours of bad weather at the finish as yet unconfirmed.
The remaining 157 riders are off! No overnight retirements to report.
Today's 172-kilometre stage features one third category climb and two first category climbs before the final ascent to the Bolo del Mundo. With Italy's Vincenzo Nibali holding a slender 50-second lead over climber Ezequiel Mosquera of Spain, be prepared for fireworks with all still left to play for.
Welcome to live coverage of the penultimate stage of this year's Vuelta a Espana, a mountain showdown which culminates atop the tortuous Bolo del Mundo pass.