Sergio Henao (Team Sky) has won the third stage of the 2013 Tour of the Basque Country and moved into the overall lead of the race.
The Columbian triumphed in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel duel with Carlos Betancur (AG2R-La Mondiale) to add a yellow jersey to a significant stage win.
The two Columbians battled shoulder to shoulder on gradients topping 20 per cent, with Team Sky’s man seizing victory with a desperate lunge for the line.
Team Sky’s directeur sportif, Nicolas Portal, described stage three as an “extraordinary day”.
“Sergio was really strong at the end and made the right move,” said Portal. “Richie [Porte] was behind always in control so it was a near-perfect result for the team.
“The climb was hard as it was really narrow in places and the gradient always changed. There was a big effort to be at the front for the start and then it flattened out again.
“At the end the gradient was horrible!”
Henao, the domestique deluxe, became a key player as the stage entered a brutal final phase the included three climbs in the closing 55km, before the summit finish.
The Columbian made his move on the final ascent, the Alto de la Lejana, splitting the field with his first acceleration, before reaching two early escapees, Betancur and Katusha’s Giampaolo Caruso, with his next attack.
Thousands of spectators lined the vertiginous slopes to the summit and were treated to a finale that would surely have exceeded the expectations of even the most enthusiastic fan as the two Columbians went mano a mano.
Despite the thrilling action ahead, and the change of leadership, the favorites for overall victory, notably Henao’s team-mate, and Paris-Nice winner, Richie Porte, and two-time Pais Vasco champion, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), finished together just 10 seconds back.
Another Columbian, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), winner of the Queen stage of the Volta a Catalunya, was fourth, eight seconds behind his countrymen.
Quintana moved to second on general classification, and with Betancur tenth overall, the South American country is enjoying some of its greatest successes since the legendary Cafe de Columbia outfit of the 1980s.
Tomorrow’s 151.6km stage from Trapagaran to Eiber includes five climbs and another summit finish, this time on the first category, Alto de Usartza.
Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco 2013 – stage three – result
1) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky – 3.54.22
2) Carlos Betancur (COL) – Ag2r-La Mondiale – ST
3) Giampaolo Caruso (ITA) – Katusha +5″
4) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +8″
5) Diego Ulissi (ITA) – Lampre + 10″
6) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky – ST
7) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
8) Simon Spilak (SLO) – Katusha
9) Igor Anton (ESP) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +16″
10) Samuel Sanchez (ESP) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +25″
1) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky – 12.24.26
2) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +8″
3) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky + 10″
4) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
5) Giampaolo Caruso (ITA) – Katusha
6) Simon Spilak (SLO) – Katusha
7) Jacob Fuglsang (DEN) – Astana +21″
8) Pieter Weening (NED) – Orica-GreenEDGE
9) Jose Herrada (ESP) – Movistar
10) Carlos Betancur (COL) – Ag2r-La Mondiale