Stage 15 of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana brought rare success for the buccaneers of the breakaway, men prepared to commit fully to an odds-against chance of victory.
On a stage as grueling as the 186.5km grind from La Robla to Lagos de Covadonga, their efforts were especially admirable, and the escapees gained a maximum advantage of 15 minutes.
The peloton seemed content to let them lead, but on the final climb of the stage, the 1,120 metre ascent to the summit finish, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) resumed his attempts to break race leader, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), with a series of thrilling attacks.
Rodriguez withstood the assault while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) grimly clung on, leaving only Chris Froome (Team Sky) among the main contenders to lose time.
Here’s a gallery of images from UCI WorldTour photographer, Stefano Sirotti.
The sometimes stark landscapes of the Vuelta are a contrast to the lush backgrounds witnessed in the Tour de France, but no less beautiful
Valverde, Rodriguez, and Contador kept a close watch on each other on the road to the summit finish
More than nine minutes up the road from the race leading trio, Antonio Piedra celebrates victory after beating his breakaway companions to the summit of the final climb
Valverde led home the contenders after surviving a series of stinging attacks from Contador
Purito looks increasingly like a candidate for overall victory