Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) climbed to victory on stage 14 of the Vuelta a España, beating his fellow breakaways and holding off a ferocious chase from Primož Roglič on Sierra de la Pandera.
It's his second stage win of the race, coming 48 hours after his triumph at Peñas Blancas.
The Olympic champion had to fight all the way to the line for it, as the race burst into life behind him halfway up the day's final climb.
With four kilometres to go, Roglič attacked and rode away. The Slovenian looked resurgent and was later joined by Miguel Ángel López (Astana Qazaqstan Team), who outsprinted him for second place, eight seconds down.
Race leader Remco Evenepoel cracked soon after the attack, showing his first significant signs of weakness in this year's race. He ultimately lost 48 seconds to his Jumbo-Visma rival, who set the pace up the climb.
He leads Roglič by 1:49 with a tough stage in the mountains tomorrow to Sierra Nevada. The battle for Vuelta victory is most definitely on.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Stage fourteen of the Vuelta headed south-east on a 160-kilometre route between Montoro and the punishing Sierra de la Pandera, a first-category climb of 8.6km at 7.5 percent average.
Happily, there were no morning abandons due to COVID-19. Soon-to-be-retired Vincenzo Nibali was the first rider to attack in an animated opening third of the racing. The bunch split due to crosswinds, with UAE Team Emirates briefly caught on the wrong side, before reforming. The average speed in the stage's second hour was a scorching 52km/h.
Several moves by Thomas De Gendt were brought to heel, before Yevgeniy Fedorov (Astana Qazaqstan) and Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) instigated the key move. The Colombian was only up front for a couple of kilometres before crashing out of it.
Following a couple of counter-attacks, a ten-man move came together, involving Fedorov, Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), Clément Champoussin (Citroën-AG2R), Luis León Sánchez (Bahrain-Victorious), Bruno Amirail (Groupama-FDJ), Marco Brenner (Team DSM), Filippo Conca (Lotto Soudal), Raúl García (Equipo Kern Pharma) and Trek-Segafredo pair Kenny Elissonde and points jersey leader Mads Pedersen.
The gap went out to over four minutes, with moustachioed Rémi Cavagna setting a steady tempo for his leader Remco Evenepoel behind.
In Jaén, 33 kilometres from the finish, Pedersen led through the intermediate sprint uncontested to extend his emphatic lead in the points classification before falling back to the bunch on the Puerto de Los Villares, the day's 10-kilometre, penultimate climb.
Sánchez and Carapaz escaped near the top and were joined by Champoussin and Conca in the early part of the Pandera.
In the finale, Jumbo-Visma set a punishing pace on the front of the peloton, with Robert Gesink and Chris Harper, probing for weaknesses in Evenepoel.
The Pandera's mid-section, with gradients at 14 and 15 percent, whittled down the group of contenders to do a dozen before Primož Roglič exploded the race with his attack. In front, Carapaz left his last breakaway companions behind, realising the need to go all in.
It had seemed business as usual for Evenepoel up to this point. Not anymore: he led the chase briefly before dramatically cracking, being passed by Enric Mas and several other contenders.
Spurred on, Miguel Ángel López and Mas, sat third overall, joined Roglič up the road and their lead shot up. A man on a mission, the Slovenian did the lion's share of the work.
Just behind, fifth-placed overall Juan Ayuso suffered a puncture and raced the last half of the climb on a Shimano neutral service bike. Even the teenager powered past the suffering Evenepoel, before the Belgian caught up with him later, getting back into his rhythm.
1500 metres from the finish, Mas had to let go of the wheel as three-time Vuelta winner Roglič powered on.
Aided by a brief downhill section, Carapaz held off his fierce chase for triumph, while López outsprinted the Jumbo-Visma leader, eight seconds behind.
There could be bigger gaps in tomorrow's stage 15 to Sierra Nevada, with more climbing and a finish at over 2,500 metres.
The exciting stage throws up a fascinating final week of the Vuelta. Will Evenepoel be able to stay with Roglič or will this day prove to be the beginning of the end of his Vuelta leadership?
VUELTA A ESPAÑA 2022: STAGE 14 RESULTS
1. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers in 4-09-27
2. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana Qazaqstan, at 8 secs
3. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma
4. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 27s
5. Carlos Rodríguez (Ese) Ineos Grenadiers, at 36s
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar
7. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Team DSM, at 51s
8. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 56s
9. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-24
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 14
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, in 52-21-33
2. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-49
3. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 2-43
4. Carlos Rodríguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers, at 3-46
5. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 4-53
6. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana Qazaqstan, at 6-02
7. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 6-49
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6-56
9. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 8-49
10. Ben O’Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën Team, at 9-12
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Having worked at both Cycling Weekly and Cycle Sport early in his career Andy went on to become the editor of Rouleur. He is the author of God is Dead: The Rise and fall of Frank Vandenbroucke, and Tom Simpson: Bird on the Wire, which won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2017.
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