Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard) has won the ninth stage of the Vuelta a Espana and reclaimed the red jersey of race leader.
The 41-year-old veteran, winner of stage three, scored his second victory of the race by jumping clear of an elite group en route to the summit of the Alto Hazallanas.
Vincenzo Nibali removed any doubt surrounding his intentions for the race by setting a tempo that caused the decisive split.
He launched a solo pursuit of Horner, but finished some 48 seconds behind the American.
Horner said: “For me it was better to attack while the others played some tactics behind me.”
“I watched my power meter and stayed at 98 per cent all the way to the line, never at 100 per cent,” he joked.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) led home a chasing group comprised entirely of team leaders: Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and a rejuvenated Thibaut Pinot (FDJ. Each lost 1.02 to Horner and 14 seconds to Nibali.
Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff), winner of stage two and a former race leader, was next across the line.
“When I run at my best, I cannot be anything but happy, and that was what I gave to today,” he said.
Tomorrow’s rest day will offer the riders time to consider the stage 11 time trial at Tarazona, a twisting, technical parcours punctuated with a third category climb.
Horner said he held little hope of retaining the race lead after the time trial, a stage he will enter with a margin of just 43 seconds over Nibali, widely considered a superior rider against the clock.
“I have a little bit of a time cushion now but I’m sure Nibali knew he could give me some time before the time trial and not worry about it.
“I can stay very close after that until we go to another mountain stage and that will decide this Vuelta.
“As you can see, every top rider is alone on the last climb, so it’s going to get down to tactics every time,” he said.
Vuelta a Espana 2013: stage eleven – result
1) Christopher Horner (USA) – Radioshack-Leopard – 4.30.22
2) VIncenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +48″
3) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +1.02
4) Ivan Basso (ITA) – Cannondale – ST
5) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha
6) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ
7) Nicolas Roche (IRE) – Saxo-Tinkoff +1.10
8) Igor Anton (ESP) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +1.25
9) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
10) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo-Tinkoff +1.52
1) Chris Horner (USA) – Radioshack-Leopard – 40.29.14
2) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +43″
3) Nicolas Roche (IRE) – Saxo-Tinkoff +53″
4) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +1.02
5) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +1.40
6) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha +2.04
7) Ivan Basso (ITA) – Cannondale +2.20
8) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ +3.11
9) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo-Tinkoff +3.16
10) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +3.28