Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) took his first win of the season on the summit finish of stage three of the 2015 Ruta del Sol, while also consolodating his overall lead in the GC.
The Spaniard broke away from the leading group of riders at around 7.5km from the finish line, near the foot of the final category one climb of Alto de Hazallanas.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) was unable to react quickly enough to Contador’s attack, having been too far away from the front of the group. He then pursued the 2014 Vuelta a España champion in a chasing bunch that included his teammate Peter Kennaugh as well as other GC hopefuls Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) and eventually, Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale).
Contador stretched out a gap to a maximum of 35 seconds, before Froome went solo to try and catch the race leader, or at the very least cut his time losses.
It was slow progress for the Brit on the long climb which ramped up to gradients of a maximum of 20 per cent in places, but he managed to finish second on the stage with a time deficit of 19 seconds to Contador.
It means that Froome now sits 27 seconds behind his arch rival in the Ruta del Sol general classification, with Intxausti, Bardet and Kennaugh all sitting around two minutes or more behind Contador, who retains the red jersey as the race head towards its second mountain finish on Saturday.
Ruta del Sol 2015, stage three: Motril – Alto de Hazallanas, 160km
1. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, in 4-51-57
2. Christopher Froome (Gbr) Team Sky, at 19 seconds
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, at 1-41
4. Beñat Inxausti (Esp) Movistar, at 1-58
5. Mikel Nieve (Esp) Team Sky, at 2-01
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) LottoNL.Jumbo, at 2-05
7. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) MTN-Qhubeka, at 2-15
8. Peter Kennaugh (Gbr) Team Sky, at 2-16
9. Sebastian Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling, at 2-30
10. Sergio Pardilla (Esp) Caja Rural, at 2-42
Overall classification after stage three
1. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, in 12-22-55
2. Christopher Froome (Gbr) Team Sky, at 27 seconds
3. Beñat Inxausti (Esp) Movistar, at 1-59
4. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, at 2-13
5. Peter Kennaugh (Gbr) Team Sky, at 2-28
6. Mikel Nieve (Esp) Team Sky, at 2-30
7. Kanstantin Siutsou (Blr) Team Sky, at 3-19
8. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling, at 3-41
9. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, at 4-10
10. Gorka Izaguirre (Esp) Movistar, at 4-15