Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) soloed to stage 13 success at the Vuelta a Espana, after escaping late in the stage into Obregon.
Navarro launched a perfectly timed attack to break clear of an elite front group – in which all of the GC men finished together – and held on to take victory on the uphill finish.
The Spaniard had just a two-second advantage at the finish, but it was enough to allow the former Tour de France top-ten finisher to toast his first career Grand Tour stage win.
A stage which appeared well suited to the breakaway saw 14 riders go clear after an extremely fast start to the day’s proceedings.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caja Rural), Jay Thomson (MTN-Qhubeka), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) and Stef Clement (Belkin) were all in the front group which earned a gap after three kilometres.
Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp), Vegard Breen (Lotto-Belisol), Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing), Marcel Arreger (IAM Cycling), Damien Gaudin (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Paolo Longo Borghini (Cannondale) and Trek Factory Racing dup Yaroslav Popovych and Jasper Stuyven all also made the split.
Movistar, for whom Jonathan Castroviejo was unable to make the junction, and Team Europcar both hit the front to try and get men in the move, but – despite Vansummeren, Popovych and Arreger all being dropped – the 11 remaining escapees stayed out.
With the bunch keeping them at a steady distance, the gap never appeared insurmountable however – Orica-GreenEDGE lending firepower to the chase.
Brett Lancaster was one of three riders to abandon the race during the stage, however, along with Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) and Murilo Fischer (FDJ.fr), which hampered the Australian team’s efforts to control the break.
Lutsenko was the first of the front group to accelerate, with Cunego, Wyss and Sanchez chasing behind.
Sagan and Gaudin also attempted to keep pace but, while Gaudin joined the front group, Sagan was dropped and quickly disappeared back into the bunch and out the back as his struggle to find form continued.
Orica-GreenEDGE, nevertheless, continued to set a fast pace in the bunch with Sam Bewley putting in a huge shift, helped by Simon Clarke.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) were among the riders dropped as a result.
The gap still only came down slightly however, and when Bewley finally blew up Orica’s chase began to waver.
Movistar and Tinkoff-Saxo both brought riders forward before FDJ.fr put in a big shift in a bid to bring the gap down and contest the stage.
The French team’s effort made huge inroads into the lead of the five up the road, prompting Lutsenko to attack solo with 15km remaining.
Gaudin used a rapid descent to set off in pursuit, with Wyss for company, but their chase was disjointed – even when their former companions re-joined them.
It was not to matter anyway, however, as the gap continued to tumble and the fight for position began in the bunch.
In among it all, Alejandro Valverde snatched another bonus second at the intermediate sprint – beating Contador’s team-mate Bennati.
Both Tinkoff-Saxo and Movistar had riders on the front, but the FDJ.fr effort finally relented – Garmin-Sharp among the teams to take charge instead.
Lutsenko was caught with less than eight kilometres remaining, prompting a flurry of action on the front of the bunch as teams fought for position – Orica-GreenEDGE among them.
The furious pace, with several short-lived attacks off the front, shredded the peloton – Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Navarro among those to have a go.
The GC men then took over – Chris Froome (Team Sky), Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) all trying their luck, with Valverde shutting them down.
Just in front, however, Navarro continued to hold a slender lead as a 20-man group chased hard behind – Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) among them.
With the attacks and counter-attacks continuing, Navarro still maintained a small lead as he passed under the flamme rouge.
The GC men continued to press hard, but it was Daniel Moreno (Katusha) and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) who launched a late counter-attack – their team leaders perhaps wary of taking Valverde with them.
As it was, their fears were to prove justified as Valverde out-sprinted Bouhanni for fourth place, but not before Navarro had held on to take victory by just two seconds.
The Spaniard, for whom it is a first Grand Tour stage win despite his strong showings overall in the past, had time to raise both hands in celebration as he crossed the finish line.
Further back, Moreno beat Kelderman to second and Valverde led the remains of the peloton across the line, with all the GC men having stayed together.
Vuelta a Espana 2014: stage 13 – result
1) Daniel Navarro (ESP) – Cofidis – 4.21.04hrs
2) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha +2”
3) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling – ST
4) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +5”
5) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ.fr – ST
6) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – Cannondale
7) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo
8) Robert Gesink (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling
9) Daniel Martin (IRL) – Garmin-Sharp
10) Gianluca Brambilla (ITA) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
General classification (provisional)
1) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo – 48.59.23hrs
2) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +19”
3) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +1.08
4) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +1.20
5) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +1.35
6) Samuel Sanchez (ESP) – BMC Racing +1.52
7) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +2.13
8) Winner Anacona (COL) – Lampre-Merida +2.37
9) Robert Gesink (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +2.55
10) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – Cannondale +3.51