Colombian Nairo Quintana moved back into the leader’s red jersey of the Tour of Spain with a stunning ascent to win Monday’s 10th stage.
Chris Froome battled back after being dropped early in the 12.2km special category climb to the end of the 188.7km ride from Lugones to Lagos de Covadonga to finish third on the stage and move up to third in the general classification, 58 seconds back on Quintana.
Alejandro Valverde is just one second ahead of Froome in second overall.
Quintana crossed the line in a time of 4hr 50min 31sec ahead of the Netherlands’ Robert Gesink, who finished 24 seconds back and just a second ahead of Froome.
Three-time Vuelta winner Alberto Contador suffered another damaging blow to his chances of a record fourth win on home soil as he finished 1min 05 sec back on Quintana to fall nearly three minutes adrift in fifth overall.
Overnight leader David de la Cruz slipped to seventh in the general classification.
Froome’s chances of becoming the first man in 38 years to win the Tour de France and Tour of Spain in the same year looked to be fading as he slipped behind his rivals, falling nearly a minute behind Quintana at one stage.
However, he surged through the chasing pack in the final five kilometres, passing Contador and Valverde on his way to limiting the damage to Quintana.
Quintana had failed to challenge Froome’s procession to a third Tour de France win in July, but looks in much better shape having skipped the Olympics to concentrate on landing the second Grand Tour title of his career.
The Movistar rider made his first move along with Contador seven kilometres from the end. However, Contador couldn’t live with Quintana’s acceleration when he kicked for home 3.5 kilometres from the finish.
Gesink was alone at the front of the race at that stage as the sole survivor from a 16-man breakaway.
He was quickly pulled in by Quintana, who surged to victory to add 10 bonus seconds to the time he made on the day over the chasing pack.
Gesink just held on to pip Froome to second, whilst Valverde followed the Sky rider home to take fourth. – Agence France-Presse