Vincenzo Nibali of Italy overcame a wasp sting to regain the overall lead the Vuelta a Espana following the individual time trial on Wednesday.
Astana’s Nibali completed the 38.8km in fourth place, 1 minute and 25 seconds behind stage winner Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, with Tony Martin of Germany placing second and Italy’s Domenico Pozzovivo third in the rolling course through Tarazona, Spain.
As the race reaches its half-way point, Nibali leads overall by 33 seconds from Ireland’s Nicolas Roche, with Spain’s Alejandro Valverde third.
Overnight leader Chris Horner of the US slipped to fourth after finishing 20th in the time trial.
After being stung by a wasp during a training session on Tuesday, Nibali, who won the Giro d’Italia in May and the 2010 Tour of Spain, said had no way of knowing how much the sting would affect his ride.
“I’m not sure, When I woke up this morning I felt terrible and little by little it’s getting better now,” Nibali told reporters, wearing dark glasses to protect his red and swollen eyes.
“I’m just going to defend the lead day by day, not thinking too far ahead. There’s still five really big mountain stages to come,” the Italian said.
Nibali named Spaniards Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez — second and third in last year’s Vuelta respectively — as his most dangerous rivals.
Horner lost 90 seconds to Nibali, about 30 seconds more than he was hoping for.
“I figured if I lost around a minute on Nibali, it’d be OK,” he said before describing his own encounter with an insect in which a bee got into his mouth at the beginning of the stage.
“It was disturbing and scary. I couldn’t get it out. I also tried to swallow it. Eventually, I coughed it up,” Horner said.
Former world and Olympic time trial champion Cancellara said his victory on a difficult course represented his solid progress toward his end-of-season targets at the World Championships in Florence, Italy.
“Before the Vuelta, I had thought this course wouldn’t suit me, but when I went out there and looked at it, I thought I had more of a chance and I just focused on doing my race,” Cancellara told reporters. “I really did my homework.”
The winner of two major Classics, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, this year, Cancellara would not be drawn on whether he would target the world championships time trial, which he has won four times or the road race.
“For now, I’m just building up my form, I’m getting there and that’s what counts. Closer to the time, we’ll decide on which race I’ll do,” he said.
The Vuelta finishes on Sept. 15 in Madrid.