Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez strengthened his hold on the overall race lead in the Vuelta a España with a last-minute surge for the line at Fuerte de Rapitan's uphill finish to win yesterday's sixth stage.
Timing his effort perfectly, Rodriguez finished five seconds clear of Britain's Chris Froome, second in the overall standings, on the four-kilometre climb to an old fort. Alejandro Valverde of Spain was third, 10 seconds back.
Pre-race favourite Alberto Contador, who returned from a doping ban earlier this month, had an off-day and dropped back in the final kilometre as Froome accelerated hard, to finish 18 seconds off the pace.
Following the Vuelta's third summit finish in four days, Katusha rider Rodriguez has increased his lead over Tour de France runner-up Froome from one second to 10. Contador remains in third but has now slid to 36 sec adrift.
"I barely had the strength to follow Froome, so I had to race intelligently," said Rodriguez, who was congratulated by the Team Sky rider on his performance.
"A team-mate [Spain's Angel Vicioso] had checked out this climb beforehand and told me exactly what it was like and I have to thank him, that information was spot-on and really valuable. I stuck on Chris's wheel for most of the climb, I kept going at his pace, and then I just had the strength to nip round him at the finish."
After Belgian Thomas De Gendt was captured by the bunch in the streets of the finishing town of Jaca, Froome's Team Sky made the running on most of the short but painfully steep final climb.
First, Colombian Sergio Henao and then Rigoberto Uran brutally upped the pace, with Froome's last drive shaking off both Contador and Valverde but not.