While Team Sky Procycling’s Vasil Kiryienka took home the victory on Stage 18 Thursday with an impressive time of 4:46:48, it was the battle for the overall classification lead that has stolen the headlines.
Team Astana's Vincenzo Nibali still maintains the red jersey with an overall time of 73:39:35, but American Chris Horner of Team Radioshack-Leopard has closed the lead to just three seconds.
With just three stages remaining, the end of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana is going to be wild.
Stage 18 was a fierce 187 kilometer run up the mountains from Burgos to Peña Cabarga, and featured some beautiful backdrops for intense on-course action.
While the classification lead is the talk of the sport, Kiryienka deserves immense credit for a stellar run.
Second-place finisher Chris Anker Sörensen of Team Saxo-Tinkoff was the closest to Thursday’s winner, 28 seconds behind, and third-place finisher Adam Hansen of Team Lotto Belisol finished 1:18 behind the stage winner.
Martin Kohler (+1:34) and Egoi Martinez De Esteban (+1:42) finished fourth and fifth respectively.
The mainstream battle came when Horner managed an impressive run and finished sixth. Nibali ran well through Stage 18, but finished 10th and lost what little lead he had left in the general classification.
Stage 19 will be a 181-kilometer mountain course that takes the cyclists from San Vicente de la Barquera to Oviedo Alto del Naranco. With the red jersey very much in play and climbers still trying to make a name for themselves, Friday is the perfect setup for this weekend’s finale.
Stage 18 Top 10 Finishers
||Chris Anker Sörensen
BMC Racing Team
Egoi Martinez De Esteban
Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver
||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte
||Astana Pro Team
Full updated standings can be found via LaVuelta.com.