Vuelta a Espana: Joaquim Rodriguez wins stage 19 as Chris Horner takes red jersey
Joaquim Rodriguez won stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana as Chris Horner took the race lead.
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 15/09/13 11:11am
Horner (RadioShack-Leopard), who turns 42 next month, rode away from the previous race leader inside the last 1km of the ascent to the summit finish on Alto del Naranco and crossed the line six seconds ahead of the wilting Italian in fifth place.
The result means he turns a three-second deficit into a three-second advantage going into Saturday's decisive 20th stage and now appears almost certain to become the oldest Grand Tour winner in history.
It was the third consecutive summit finish on which Horner has dropped Nibali and with arguably the race's hardest climb, the Alto de L'Angliru, waiting tomorrow, it will take a remarkable reversal in form to deny the American overall glory.
Rodriguez (Katusha) claimed his first win of this year's Vuelta with a trademark attack as he passed under the flamme rouge. The Spaniard, who is fourth in the general classification, darted away from his rivals at an electric speed and hung on to win by 11 seconds from second-placed Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) and third-placed Daniel Moreno (Katusha).
Horner followed three seconds later alongside Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who is third overall, but Nibali was once again unable to match his rivals' late surges and finished another six seconds adrift in ninth.
Rodriguez said: "I'm really happy. I'm an ambitious rider and I wanted this victory. Today I got closer to the podium, my final goal. Tomorrow we have Angliru, which will be crucial for general classification. Every climber would love to win tomorrow."
The last 1km provided a dramatic and action-packed finale to a 181km day that had started in San Vicente de la Barquera and seen a 20-man breakaway go clear.
Escapes fall short
The peloton was reluctant to give the escapees too much of a lead, though, and with the gap being kept below two and a half minutes, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and Georg Preidler (Argos-Shimano) attacked out of the group to see if they could enjoy more success as a duo.
They stretched the advantage to 3min 20sec, but as counter-attackers began firing off the front of the main bunch in the final 25km, the lead began to fall and they were caught by a chase group 13km out.
Jose Joao Mendes (NetApp-Endura) then launched a solo bid for victory 9.5km from home and although he made good early progress, his attempt was always ill-fated and he was finally swallowed up 1.2km from the line.
Almost immediately, Ireland's Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff), who is fifth overall, tried and failed with an attack, but Rodriguez's was in explosive form and had no such trouble in distancing his rivals on the way to claiming an impressive win.
Stage 19 result
1 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, 4:16:13
2 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, +11
3 Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha, same time
4 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi, st
5 Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard, +14
6 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, st
7 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, +16
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura, +20
9 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, st
10 Nicolas Roche (Ire) Saxo-Tinkoff, +23
1 Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard, 76:56:05
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Spa) Astana, +3secs
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +1:06
4 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, +1:57
5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Saxo-Tinkoff, +3:49
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +6:00
7 Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura, +6:38
8 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, +7:02
9 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi, +7:45
10 Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha, +11:05
- Green (points classification): Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
- Blue polka dot (mountains classification): Nicolas Edet (Cofidis)