Madrid: Italy`s Vincenzo Nibali grabbed the overall lead in the Tour of Spain after overnight pacesetter Igor Anton crashed out at high speed during Saturday`s 178-km 14th stage.
Nibali finished second on the short but steep mountain climb of Pena Cabarga, 20 seconds behind stage winner Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain.
Following Spaniard Anton`s withdrawal, the Liquigas rider leads Rodriguez by a narrow four-second margin. Another home rider, Ezequiel Mosquera, is third, 50 seconds back.
"I`d prefer not to have taken the jersey this way," Nibali told reporters. "It`s terrible what happened to Anton."
"I myself lost the lead in the Tour of Italy this year after a crash and I know how bad it feels."
Anton smashed into the tarmac with 7-km to go when the peloton was speeding at around 75-kph to try and catch two breakaways.
"I saw one Euskaltal-Euskadi rider hit something in the road and suddenly there were riders going down like ninepins everywhere," said Mosquera who was third in the stage.
His race clothes in shreds and bleeding badly from both elbows, team doctors quickly decided the 27-year-old Anton could not continue.
Anton may have a fractured elbow while Euskaltel-Euskadi team mate Egoi Martinez, who also crashed, has a suspected broken collarbone.
Italian Marzio Bruseghin, sixth overall at the start of the day, also crashed and was taken to hospital as a precaution, although he completed the stage.
"It was a really bad accident," said Rodriguez. "I was right at the front of the bunch and was lucky enough to avoid it."
"I could hear the sound of metal screeching behind as the bikes hit the road and I thought `that must have been a big one`."
The race ends in Madrid on Sept. 19.