Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) soloed to victory on stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana, foiling the sprinters with a late attack on the run in to Cangas do Morrazo.
The Australian – who is racing his tenth consecutive Grand Tour – escaped off the front of the peloton on a small, uncategorised climb just five kilometres from the finish.
And though four-time stage winner John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) was among the fast men still in the front group, a lack of support riders meant none of the sprint teams could shut down Hansen’s audacious move.
He stretched his lead just enough as the pace in the bunch momentarily slowed, and took his first win of the season before Degenkolb stretched his green jersey advantage by leading the bunch over some five seconds later.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), meanwhile, maintained his 1’19” advantage over Chris Froome (Team Sky), as hostilities eased between the GC men ahead of the potentially pivotal climb of the Ancares on stage 20.
Earlier, the opening exchanges of the race had followed much the same pattern as on stage 18, a very fast pace being start from the start as riders looked to get into the break.
Several times dangerous groups earned a small lead, with Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) and Hansen among those to try their luck.
Tinkoff-Saxo, knowing the course was well-suited to the break, kept a watchful eye on proceedings from the front, however, keeping the race together until more than 20 kilometres had passed.
Wout Poels (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belsiol) – after seeing a previous move foiled – were the two to finally instigate the day’s break, with Laurent Mangel (FDJ.fr) for company.
Giant-Shimano led the chase, keeping the gap down in the process despite receiving little help from the few sprinting teams left in the bunch.
With the gap coming down rapidly to the three leaders, the pace was slowed right down by the bunch to ensure they kept the three hanging up the road – their move clearly not going to be the one to contest the stage.
Orica-GreenEDGE finally hit the front with little more than 50 kilometres to share the pace-setting duties as they bid to reel in the breakaway before the second category climb of the Alto Monte Faro.
With the pace ramped right up, and the fight for position starting among the GC men too, Giant-Shimano eased back into the bunch and the gap to the front men fell to less than a minute.
Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front on the run-in to the climb, with the break brought back just before Luke Rowe led the peloton onto the lower ramps of the Monte Faro.
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) took the chance to launch a solo attack as Degenkolb and Contador sat on the wheels of Team Sky, who led the chase further behind.
Riders were being spat out the back as a result of Sky’s pace, and Lutsenko’s advantage was just six seconds as he crested the climb.
Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing) was next to attack, hitting the descent hard, but he soon sat up while a crash in the peloton – which saw Dario Cataldo (Team Sky) come down hard – briefly caused a split.
Chris Froome stayed safe, bringing Contador, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Degenkolb and Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano) back however as Giant-Shimano moved to the front again to take up chasing duties of Lutsenko.
Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant-Shimano) closed the gap right down to the Kazakh rider, without quite bringing him back, but he was eventually brought back on a small climb as Orica-GreenEDGE came forward again.
British champion Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) was next to attack, while Hansen made another attempt but Orica-GreenEDGE again shut it down.
The Australian’s next attack stuck, however, with less than five kilometres to go, prompting British ace Adam Yates to hit the front, followed by Barguil who was happy to commit to domestique duties for Giant-Shimano.
Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) made a short-lived bid to bridge the gap but he was soon brought back, while Hansen headed into the final three kilometres with a seven-second lead.
The pace in the peloton briefly slowed, however, allowing Hansen to double his advantage with Yates and Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing) chasing.
Attacks and counter-attacks continued off the front however, as the sprinters chances faded – despite Degenkolb and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) having stayed in the front group.
Hansen’s advantage held under the flamme rouge, and despite what remained of the peloton bringing everything back together it was the Australian who soloed to the second Grand Tour stage win of his career.
Vuelta a Espana 2014: stage 19 – result
1) Adam Hansen (AUS) – Lotto-Belisol – 4.21.58hrs
2) John Degenkolb (GER) – Giant-Shimano +5”
3) Filippo Pozzato (ITA) – Lampre-Merida – ST
4) Yannick Martinez (FRA) – Team Europcar
5) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
6) Geoffrey Soupe (FRA) – FDJ.fr
7) Paul Martens (GER) – Belkin Pro Cycling
8) Jasper Stuyven (BEL) – Trek Factory Racing
9) Romain Hardy (FRA) – Cofidis
10) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – Cannondale
1) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo – 76.00.40hrs
2) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +1.19
3) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +1.32
4) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +2.29
5) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +3.15
6) Daniel Martin (IRL) – Garmin-Sharp +6.52
7) Samuel Sanchez (ESP) – BMC Racing +6.59
8) Warren Barguil (FRA) – Giant-Shimano +9.12
9) Daniel Navarro (ESP) – Cofidis +9.44
10) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – Cannondale +9.45