An all-out attack by Joaquim Rodriguez on a short, but viciously steep ascent earned the home rider victory on the eighth stage and the overall lead in the Vuelta a Espana on Saturday.
With 500m left on a cobbled street so narrow just two or three competitors could squeeze across it, the Katusha rider blasted away alone for his second stage win in four days.
Italian Michele Scarponi was the second to drag himself to the summit of the slope, nine seconds back. Dutchman Bauke Mollema finished third.
Having gained a 20-second time bonus for his stage win, Rodriguez now has a 32-second overall advantage over teammate Daniel Moreno of Spain, with Dane Jakob Fuglsang in third spot.
The winner on stage four’s tough uphill finish at Valdepenas de Jaen, Rodriguez told reporters that Saturday’s leg was harder.
“There were constant changes of gradient, from nearly flat to really steep, and that is very tough, but I’d come to check out the climb this July and I knew what to expect and how best to race on it,” he said. “That made a big difference.”
Rodriguez said the ninth stage’s summit finish on La Covatilla, a ski station deep in the mountains of western Spain, would represent another chance to increase his lead.
“It’s not the kind of climb that suits me best, but getting a few seconds here and a time bonus there is the best strategy I have,” he said. “Covatilla is a legendary climb and if I play it right I could cause a lot of damage.”
Top sprinters Tyler Farrar and Oscar Freire pulled out during Saturday’s stage, a 177.3km trek through the sierras west of Madrid.