Primoz Roglic tightened his grip on La Roja as Tadej Pogacar took the victory on a dramatic stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana on Friday.
Jumbo-Visma rider Roglic opened up an advantage of two minutes and 25 seconds over nearest general classification rival Alejandro Valverde, who could not keep up in a gruelling finale.
The Slovenian sat on the wheel of compatriot Pogacar during a stunning attack that split the GC riders apart on the formidable Alto de Los Machucos – a special category climb of 6.8 kilometres at an average gradient at 9.2 per cent – which brought an end to the 166.4km journey from Bilbao that included a whopping seven hills.
It was Pogacar's second stage win at the Vuelta, where the 20-year-old is making his Grand Tour debut, and moved him ahead of Miguel Angel Lopez and Nairo Quintana into third in the GC, three minutes and one second off Roglic.
Astana turned up the pressure towards the foot of Los Machucos as they looked to close in on a breakaway and put Lopez in a position to make gains on Roglic.
However, it was Movistar rider Quintana who made the first significant move when he looked to create some separation with 6km remaining on an ascent that included gradients of 25 per cent.
Roglic's group soon reeled him in and he combined with Pogacar to drop Quintana, with Valverde and Lopez - who ended up losing a minute and seven seconds - unable to follow the astounding pace.
Pierre Latour was out in front but the Slovenian duo caught him with 1.5km to go, and Roglic appeared happy to let Pogacar take the victory at the end of a brutal day of cycling.
POGACAR NOT GETTING CARRIED AWAY
He may have moved up the GC standings and taken the white jersey from Lopez, but Pogacar does not expect to be on the top of the podium at the end of the race.
Asked if he can win the Vuelta, he responded: "I don't think so. Primoz is holding onto the red jersey really, really well."
He added: "At the start I didn't know that I'd feel so good on the last climb. In fact, I just wanted to survive because after stage seven I just really want not to lose too much, but in the end it was an incredible day for me.
"I heard on the radio that nobody was following me and Roglic, so I realised it was a good opportunity. With Roglic it's difficult to go against him because he's really strong, but I could do that today and I'm really happy today."
1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 04:28:26
2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +00:00
3. Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) +00:27
4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +00:27
5. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +00:27
1. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 49:20:28
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +02:25
3. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +03:01
1. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 109
2. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 86
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 82
King of the Mountains
1. Angel Madrazo (Burgos BH) 32
2. Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R La Mondiale) 30
3. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 25
The competitors have a chance to relax with a flat ride along Spain's northern coast from San Vicente de la Barquera to Gijon, before the 188km route turns in-land and finishes in Oviedo after a single categorised climb.