Barring catastrophe on Sunday's final stage, Euskaltel will run away with the team prize in the final Grand Tour in their current guise.
Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón, Mikel Nieve et al. weren't able to fight for what would have been an emotional victory atop cycling's possibly hardest climb - the Angliru - on the 20th and penultimate leg on Saturday, but the team's all-round consistency ensured they defended the lead in the team rankings with only the final processional stage left.
'Samu' did enough to rise to eighth overall, though, leapfrogging Leopold König courtesy of his 14th place finish. Euskaltel took control of the pack as the race closed in on the feared Angliru, but the riders in orange had no response to the vicious accelerations of eventual overall victor Chris Horner, runner-up Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde and company.
French youngster Kenny Elissonde courageously made it to the summit all alone to grab a career-defining win, while late bloomer Horner did enough and then some to score his first Grand Tour triumph at the ripe young age of 41.
Euskaltel will be the only team to complete the race with all nine riders tomorrow afternoon, despite Pablo Urtasun hitting the deck in full flight going down the Cordal climb prior to the Angliru.
The veteran all-rounder hurt his right knee and hip, but impressively got up and finished the stage.
- (1, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ.fr), 3:55:36)
- 14, Samuel Sánchez, 2:26
- 22, Mikel Nieve, 4:26
- 27, Juan José Oroz, 6:13
- 30, Igor Antón, 7:25
- 40, Mikel Landa, 10:30
- 60, Egoi Martínez, 15:10
- 107, Gorka Verdugo, 24:25
- 122, Jorge Azanza, 25:04
- 138, Pablo Urtasun, 25:52
Photo: Iñaki Azanza