Chris Horner put himself on the verge of becoming the oldest Grand Tour winner after a fifth place finish on stage 19 of the Vuelta moved the American to the top of the general standings.
The 41-year-old RadioShack rider took over the leaders red jersey from Italy’s pre-tour favourite Vincenzo Nibali – whose disappointment was plain to see as he made his way quickly to the team bus, no longer needed for the podium ceremony.
Despite a flurry of attacks all were together again late on in the 181 kilometre race to Alto del Naranco the penultimate mountain stage in the Pyrenees..
The real damage came up the final climb of the day when Spanish Katusha rider Joaquim Rodriguez burst out in front with a kilometre to go.
Nobody could match his pace and power which left the Katusha rider to claim a solo win and edge himself a few seconds closer to the race leader.
Horner, already the winner of two stages in this year’s edition, attacked his title rival Nibali with the line in sight and eventually crossed over six seconds clear to now hold a three second advantage over the Italian with two stages left.
Spaniard Alejandro Valverde is third overall at one minute and six seconds while Rodriguez is fourth just under two minutes off the leader’s pace.