Chris Froome dug deep to limit losses and retain the Vuelta a Espana race lead after a brutal finish to stage 17.
The painfully steep ramps of the Alto de Los Machucos saw the race blow apart, with Froome forced to ride at his own tempo with gradients approaching 30 percent.
The Brit pushed hard, and flanked by Mikel Nieve crossed the line 42 seconds back on nearest rival Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida).
“It’s never nice to lose time like that but at the same time I’m still really happy with the position that we’re in”, said Froome. “I think we always knew today was going to be a really tough final and it certainly was, especially with the weather conditions as well. With three days of racing to go the team is still in a great position. I’m feeling good and looking forward to the next few days.
“This was a typical Vuelta summit finish. It’s the nature of the race and it’s the same for everyone of course. I don’t think anyone really enjoys gradients over 25 percent but that’s just how it is. I still feel good and I’m confident with the guys around me that we can get the job done.
“I think I paid a little bit for yesterday’s effort but at the same time I’m pretty sure I’ll bounce back after today. I’m not really concerned (about the Angliru). Of course it’s a really tough stage, and probably the toughest climb of this year’s Vuelta. There’s still a big battle for the GC but we’ll take it one stage at a time.”