Bradley Wiggins' hopes of victory in the Vuelta a Espana suffered a major setback yesterday as the Briton lost the lead following an inspired ride by home favourite Juan Jose Cobo.
Cobo, nicknamed "The Bison", mounted a decisive late charge on the energy-sapping 144km (89.5 miles) ride from Aviles to a summit finish in Asturias, breaking his rivals on the final steep climb up the Alto de l'Angliru.
Cobo trailed Wiggins by 55 seconds at the start but turned that into a 20-second advantage with six stages remaining before the finish in Madrid on Sunday.
Wiggins' fellow Briton and Team Sky team-mate Chris Froome moved into second place overall after finishing 48 seconds down on the winner. Wiggins, who struggled as the final climb reduced many riders to walking pace, now sits 46 seconds off the pace in third place after finishing 1min 21sec down on Cobo, who also earned a 20-second time bonus for taking the stage win.
Most of the day's drama came on the final climb of the day with the brutal Alto de l'Angliru shaking up the race, Cobo seeing off the initial challenge of compatriot Igor Anton to take command on a climb that peaked with a gradient of 23.5per cent.
After overhauling Anton with 5.5km remaining, Cobo pulled clear of his nearest challengers on the stage, and, crucially, Wiggins and Froome, who were back in the pack and visibly struggling. Yet there was no such trouble for Cobo, who demonstrated stunning strength and stamina over the closing kilometres to claim a victory that makes him the clear favourite for overall victory.
"It was a long way from the finish on such a steep climb, but I felt very good," Cobo said after putting on the leader's red jersey. "Over the radio my directors kept on telling me to stay calm and that I would have a chance. For sure this is the biggest victory of my career."