Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) edged out Ben Swift (Team Sky) in a photo finish to win stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana.
Swift launched an early sprint in search of a maiden Grand Tour stage win but Bennati pipped the Briton to the line to claim his first victory of the season.
Swift said: “The team was fantastic once again and it’s just a shame that I couldn’t get that result for them. We definitely deserve something from this race because of the way we’ve been riding together throughout the entire three weeks. It’s a real shame.
“As for the sprint itself, I could probably have closed the door a bit more on Bennati, but as he was near the barriers that might have been a bit unsporting. I went as hard as I could though and was just pipped at the line.”
Bennati added: “It was such a fast last kilometre. It was a calculated sprint. I was on the wheel of Swift and at 200m he went full gas and I came around him for the win.”
Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil-DCM), Gustavo Cesar (Andalucia) and Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) formed the day’s five-man break early in the 204.5km from Aguilar de Campoo to Valladolid, which provided well-earned respite after a succession of mountain stages.
The quintet established a lead of more than five minutes but that advantage began to tumble with Argos-Shimano leading the chase in a bid to setup John Degenkolb for a fifth stage win.
Keizer was the last man to be caught with just over 15km remaining before the leadout trains took over, all jostling for position to deliver their man to victory.
Danny Pate, Sergio Henao, Juan Antonio Flecha and British national champion Ian Stannard all worked to move Swift in position but the 24-year-old was forced to settle for second.
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) finished safely in the bunch to maintain his one minute and 52 second lead over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) following his first day in the leader’s jersey.
Vuelta a Espana stage 18 – result
1) Daniele Bennati (ITA) – Radioshack-Nissan-Trek – 4:17:17 hours
2) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky
3) Allan Davis (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
4) Lloyd Mondory (FRA) – AG2R La Mondiale
5) John Degenkolb (GER) – Argos-Shimano
6) Davide Vigano (ITA) – Lampre-ISD
7) Matti Breschel (DEN) – Rabobank
8) Koen De Kort (NED) – Argos-Shimano
9) Mitchell Docker (AUS) – Orica-GreenEdge
10) Grégory Rast (SWI) – Radioshack-Nissan-Trek +6″
1) Alberto Contador (SPA) – SaxoBank-Tinkoff Bank – 72:25:21 hours
2) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar +1’52″
3) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha +2’28″
4) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +9’40″
5) Daniel Moreno (SPA) – Katusha +11’36″
6) Robert Gesink (NED) – Rabobank +12’06″
7) Laurens Ten Dam (NED) – Rabobank +12’55″
8) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Sharp +13’06″
9) Igor Anton Hernandez (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +13’49″
10) Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (SPA) Movistar +14’10″