Denis Menchov showed today why he had begun the 2012 Vuelta a Espana as joint leader of Katusha with Joaquim Rodriguez.
The Russian had been thoroughly eclipsed by his Spanish teammate until today, when he delivered a superb performance to infliltrate the breakaway (as he had done in the Olympic road race) and to grind out a victory over Team Sky’s Richie Porte when the two men went wheel-to-wheel in the final two kilometres.
Alberto Contador, Rodriguez, and Alejandro Valverde had done battle on almost every stage in what has been three weeks of almost unremitting effort from the three Spaniards.
Today, Rodriguez had the upper hand on both is rivals. Tomorrow, barring disaster, Contador, the returning hero, will be crowned champion of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana in his home town of Madrid.
Here are some superb images of today’s action on the Bola del Mundo from Stefano Sirottti.
Richie Porte and Denis Menchov battled for the stage victory after dropping their breakaway companions
Joaquim Rodriguez rode away from Alberto Contador on the steepest sections of the Bola del Mundo
Contador had no answer for his rivals, but limited his losses to retain the red jersey
Menchov enjoys a long-awaited return to the podium after winning the queen stage of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana