Stage six of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana continued the exciting trend of almost every stage of the opening week.
With a pair of third category climbs at the end of the stage, including a summit finish, the four climbing heavyweights contesting overall victory reclaimed centre stage.
Red jersey, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) extended his lead by winning the stage with a perfectly timed sprint at the expense of Chris Froome (Team Sky), whose second on the stage mirrored his position in the overall standings.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) showed his determination by finishing third and is now sixth overall, still less than a minute behind Rodriguez.
Joint pre-race favourite, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), finished fourth and today showed for the first time that he might not have been bluffing when he said the first week of the race would not be his strongest.
Here are some striking images of the finish to today’s stage from official UCI WorldTour photographer, Stefano Sirotti.
The home fans had plenty to cheer with three Spanish riders contesting the finish
Joaquim Rodriguez prepares to raise his arms in triumph having dropped Chris Froome
Chris Froome’s disappointment is evident as his attempt to lead out the sprint ends in defeat to Rodriguez
Alberto Contador finished a distant fourth, some 19 seconds behind Rodriguez, but remains third overall
Rodriguez celebrates a stage victory and the prospect of another day in the red jersey of race leader