Alessandro de Marchi soloed to his first win in BMC Racing colours as the breakaway succeeded on stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana.
As race leader Fabio Aru (Astana) saw his overall lead cut by a single second to second-placed Joaquim Rodriguez, de Marchi was celebrating a Vuelta stage win for the second consecutive year.
Having instigated the race-winning break, he then accelerated clear with a decisive move in increment weather conditions atop the Alto Campoo in Fuente del Chivo.
Aru also attacked on the climb, with Astana, Katusha and Movistar having opted not to chase the breakaway but save themselves for the final climb but both fit-again Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Rodriguez clawed back seconds at the denouement.
It had earlier taken some 50km for the break to go clear, with de Marchi having earlier seen several moves fail to stick – Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Mikael Cherel (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Carlos Quintero (Colombia) joining him.
In a move hardly lacking in firepower – and not presenting a threat overall – it was little surprise to see them rally together and earn a lead of more than ten minutes.
They stuck it out over the category-one Puerto del Escud climb too, and were still nine minutes clear as they hit the lower slopes of the Campoo.
It ensured two separate races were unfolding on the climb, the bid for stage victory and Astana’s bid to drop their GC rivals and extend Aru’s overall lead.
Knowing third-placed Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) will present a threat in the stage 17 time trial, this was the first of three mountain stages for the GC men to put the pressure on the Dutchman.
And after some dogged displays earlier in the race, for the first time he cracked – Luis Leon Sanchez and Dario Cataldo ramping up the pace and isolating Dumoulin.
Aru attacked, with Quintana and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) following the move and Rodriguez and Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) closing in behind.
Up front, meanwhile, Cherel had been the first to attack but de Marchi came back strong – distancing his former breakaway companions and then going again when Puccio and Rojas rallied to get back on.
With victory assured, it was the action down the road which stole the focus – and both Quintana and Rodriguez were able to achieve small victories over Aru, though the red jersey never looked in danger.
Vuelta a Espana 2015: stage 14 – result
1) Alessandro de Marchi (ITA) – BMC Racing – 5.43.12hrs
2) Salvatore Puccio (ITA) – Team Sky +21”
3) Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP) – Movistar +32”
4) Mikael Cherel (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +38”
5) Carlos Quintero (COL) – Colombia +1.00
6) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +3.32
7) Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +3.38
8) Johan Esteban Chaves (COL) – Orica-GreenEDGE +3.39
9) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana – ST
10) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +3.44
1) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +57.20.10hrs
2) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +26”
3) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Alpecin +49”
4) Johan Esteban Chaves (COL) – Orica-GreenEDGE +1.29
5) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.33
6) Mikel Nieve (ESP) – Team Sky +2.10
7) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +2.11
8) Daniel Montero (ESP) – Katusha +2.13
9) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +3.00
10) Romain Sicard (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +3.39