Mikel Landa (Astana) soloed to victory on the brutal 11th stage of the Vuelta a Espana as Chris Froome (Team Sky) saw his overall ambitions wiped out after an early crash.
Landa was part of the day’s breakaway and burst clear on the final climb to win the stage, while team-mate Fabio Aru made it a day of double celebration for Astana as he attacked on the same ascent to claim the red jersey.
Froome, meanwhile, was dropped much earlier in the race – seemingly feeling the effects of an innocuous crash early in the day – and Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana (Movistar) also lost a big chunk of time overall.
Previous leader Tom Dumoulin remains within 30 seconds of Aru after another dogged ride, but the day belonged to Astana.
Arguably one of the most hellish Grand Tour stages in recent memory, with no less than six major climbs – including the ESP-classified Collada de la Gallina – and Froome’s day started in the worst possible fashion as he crashed and hit his shoulder heavily.
Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky) led him back to the bunch, but it was some time before he regained contact, in which time a group of 19 riders was slowly forming at the front.
Landa, Ian Boswell (Team Sky), Romain Sicard (Europcar) and Imanol Erviti (Movistar) were among the riders in the group, but it was Landa who took charge as they hit the day’s third climb – the Coll de la Rabassa.
Erviti had attacked, but Landa hauled him back and soon joined what became a seven-man group, also including Boswell, Sicard and Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) at the front.
Froome by now was back in the peloton, with Sky happy to set the pace, but it wasn’t long before the Tour de France champion was dropping back again – his visit to the medical car all but signalling the end of his GC challenge.
Nicolas Roche was also in trouble, leaving Mikel Nieve as Sky’s leader on the road but it was their rival teams who took the initiative as the rain came.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was first of the GC men to try his luck, followed by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) while Dario Cataldo worked hard to get Aru back to the front.
Dumoulin, too, latched onto the back as Astana and Katusha traded blows on the front – while Landa, at the front, picked his moment to attack with nine kilometres remaining.
As he blasted up the climb and on to victory, Aru picked almost the same stretch of road to launch his own attack – Rodriguez and Katusha team-mate Daniel Moreno finding his wheel.
A second acceleration proved the undoing of his rivals, however, to ensure Aru will wear red on stage 12.
Rodriguez limited his losses to remain just 27 seconds back overall, with Dumoulin a further three seconds in arrears.
Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE), Valverde, Moreno and Nieve are all inside two minutes too, but for the likes of Quintana and especially Froome, it appears their GC challenge is over.
Vuelta a Espana 2015: stage 11 – result
1) Mikel Landa (ESP) – Astana – 4.34.54hrs
2) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +1.22
3) Ian Boswell (USA) – Team Sky +1.40
4) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha +1.57
5) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +1.59
6) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +2.10
7) Mikel Nieve (ESP) – Team Sky – ST
8) Johan Esteban Chaves (COL) – Orica-GreenEDGE +2.59
9) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Alpecin – ST
10) Diego Rosa (ITA) – Astana +3.02
1) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana – 43.12.19hrs
2) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +27”
3) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Alpecin +30”
4) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.28
5) Johan Esteban Chaves (COL) – Orica-GreenEDGE +1.29
6) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +1.52
7) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha +1.54
8) Mikel Nieve (ESP) – Team Sky +1.58
9) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +3.07
10) Louis Meintjes (RSA) – MTN-Qhubeka +4.15