All eyes at the time trial Stage 10 of the Vuelta a España in Salamanca on Monday were on two men: Fabian Cancellara and Bradley Wiggins. The Swiss, four times the world time-trial champion and reigning Olympic gold medalist, is considered the best in the world in the discipline.
However, both were beaten by Tony Martin, the German HTC-Highroad racer who won a time-trial stage at this year's Tour de France and is proving himself a worthy rival to Cancellara, who finished the stage fourth but 1:27 behind Martin. Wiggins came in third, 1:22 off Martin's pace and 23 seconds off his Team Sky compatriot Christopher Froome, who took over the red jersey as leader of the general classification.
The rider who lost out the most on the stage was Joaquím "Purito" Rodríguez. It was an open secret that the Katusha team leader was not looking forward to the time trial. Last year, on the Peñafiel stage, he lost a lot of ground and with it, his chances of winning the Vuelta. On this occasion, Purito again had a bad day and when he crossed the line in the main square in Salamanca he had given up more than four minutes to Wiggins and is now 3:23 seconds behind the overall leader.
Italian Liquigas rider Vincenzo Nibali fared better in the speed stakes, losing just over a minute to Wiggins who, theoretically, will find his advantage problematic to defend when the Vuelta returns to the mountains after Tuesday's rest day. Wiggins, though, proved he can mix it with the climbers on Stage 9 as he pushed the eventual podium placers up the slopes of La Covatilla and crossed the line seven seconds ahead of Nibali.
The first rider to claim the red jersey at this year's race, Jakob Fuglsang, remained in touch at the top of the general classification without making too much noise, finishing sixth, 1:37 behind Martin, to leave himself just 12 seconds shy of Froome.
Purito Rodríguez will be champing at the bit to get back onto familiar (high) ground in the days to come, but the leveler of the time trial may have presented the Vuelta a Burgos winner with too much of an uphill battle.