A day-long break during stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana earned David Moncoutie a well-deserved solo win in Sierra Nevada, whilst an unlucky puncture saw Cadel Evans lose over a minute and slide from second to fourth overall.
Evans could hardly have punctured at the worst moment. The Australian's back wheel blew close to the summit of the Monachil climb, immediately preceding the ascent to Sierra Nevada and when barely half a dozen riders remained in race leader Alejandro Valverde's group.
The Silence-Lotto rider had a wait of nearly a minute before his team car appeared and gave him a new bike, whilst ahead Valverde and the other top favourites still present decided to accelerate all out.
Finally the Australian lost 1-12 to Valverde, Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas) who completed the climb together. A fourth key favourite, Xacobeo-Galicia's Ezequiel Mosquera, broke away close to the summit from the trio to finish second behind Moncoutie, 52 seconds down, whilst Valverde picked up a time bonus for third.
Whilst Valverde has strengthened his lead, further down there have been numerous changes. Evans slid from second at just seven seconds behind Valverde to fourth at 1-23. Gesink gains a spot and moves up to second, whilst Basso jumps from fifth overall to third.
Garmin-Slipstream's Tom Danielson lost considerable time on the day, after cracking on the Monachil climb he dropped from fourth to ninth, and is now nearly seven minutes down.
"I didn't realise Evans had punctured," Valverde said later, "I just saw that he'd disappeared from the group and thought it was a good opportunity to drop him."
"I had to go for it. Assuming things continue as they stand overall, he's my most dangerous rival overall in the final time trial in Toledo."
Whilst Evans worked desperately alongside Euskaltel-Euskadi's Samuel Sanchez to limit the gap, ahead three of his four main rivals - Valverde, Gesink, and Mosquera - were given help by team-mates from a fast-disintegrating early break of 26 riders.
Valverde had Caisse D'Epargne team-mate Joaquim Rodriguez to help keep the pace high whilst Gesink could rely on Rabobank's Koos Moerenhout and Mont Ventoux winner Juanma Garate, albeit for much less time. Even Mosquera's Xacobeo-Galicia squad had David Garcia Dapena doing what he could.
Basso, Mosquera, Gesink and Valverde continued to drive once they had shed all their team-mates and their working alliance only collapsed on the windswept final two kilometres when Mosquera went clear.
Evans limited the damage, and is still only at 1-23 on Valverde. But if the Silence-Lotto pro was relying on the final time trial to pounce on the leader's jersey, it now looks like a very risky policy.
Moncoutie, meanwhile, now has the King of the Mountains classsificaiton sewn up following his gutsy daylong break and the second Vuelta win of his career.
In fact the Frenchman was so pleased with winning on one of Spain's toughest climbs that he says he's now going to put off his decision on whether he retires this year until the end of the Vuelta.
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage 13, Berja-Sierra Nevada, 172.4km
1. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis
2. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 52sec
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 1-16
4. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
5. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at same time
6. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-37
7. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 2-09
8. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 2-24
9. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Lampre at 2-31
10. Amael Moinard (Fra) Cofidis at 3-37
Overall classification after stage 13
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
2. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 27sec
3. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 1-02
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 1-23
5. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-32
6. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 1-46
7. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 5-02
8. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Lampre-NGC at 5-33
9. Daniel Navarro (Spa) Astana at 8-21
10. Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil at 10-23
Race leader Alejandro Valverde
David Moncoutie claims stage 13 of the Vuelta
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Latest news and features
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Cycling Weekly's full coverage index
Freire set for retirement in 2010
Unlucky Horner crashes out of Vuelta
Wegelius abandons the Vuelta
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Who will win?
Vinokourov back with Astana for the Vuelta
Britain and Ireland well represented in Vuelta
2009 Vuelta route favours climbers
Cycling Weekly's Rider Profiles: Index
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage reports
Stage12: Hesjedal wins second Vuelta stage for Garmin
Stage 11: Farrar takes first grand tour victory
Stage 10: Gerrans takes breakaway victory
Stage nine: Cesar wins as Valverde leads in la Vuelta
Stage eight: Cunego takes first mountain stage of 2009 Vuelta
Stage seven: Cancellara outpaces Millar in TT
Stage six: Bozic surprises sprint rivals to take win
Stage five: Greipel wins again and takes race lead
Stage four: Greipel wins after big crash wipes out bunch
Stage three: Henderson wins stage
Stage two: Ciolek takes first road stage, Hammond third
Stage one: Cancellara wins Vuelta opener
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Photos
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham WatsonStage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1