Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali regained the overall lead in the Vuelta a Espana after Wednesday’s individual time trial, but holds only a slender lead over Spain’s Ezequiel Mosquera.
Despite an early puncture, the Liquigas-Doimo rider finished the 17th stage a solid 15th after the flat 46km course, which was won by Slovakia’s Peter Velits.
Mosquera was 19th and is only 38 seconds behind in the overall standings, with Velits third.
Overnight leader Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain slumped to fifth overall after he finished a disappointing 105th on the time trial.
Nibali recognized that Mosquera was a dangerous challenge to his drive for victory on the Vuelta.
“There’s only Mosquera left to worry about now, but he’s going to be a big threat,” he told reporters. “He’s a great climber and there’s one big day in the mountains left to go before we finish in Madrid.”
Nibali said his front wheel puncture hadn’t unsettled him, although it came at a very bad moment.
“The first half of the course was really tough, with a very strong headwind and I wasn’t having a great time,” he said. “Fortunately, I didn’t panic and I only lost a few seconds when it could have been a lot more.”