Primoz Roglic tightened his grip on the overall lead of the Vuelta a Espana as he claimed some precious seconds when finishing runner-up on stage 16 on Friday.
The Slovenian had no answer to Magnus Cort Nielsen who claimed victory with a well-timed burst at the end of the 162km ride from Salamanca to Cuidad Rodrigo. But the Jumbo Visma rider claimed six seconds to stretch his advantage to 45 seconds over Ineos Grenadiers’ Richard Carapaz.
Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) is third overall at 53 seconds.
Roglic now needs to preserve his lead in Saturday’s 178km mountain stage to be almost sure of claiming victory in Madrid.
There was heartbreak for Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) who looked like he might solo his way to victory after spending all day in the breakaway.
But he was caught inside the final 3km as the peloton wound up the pace to set up a battle that Nielsen edged.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) led out the sprint but Cort powered home to continue what has been a strong Vuelta for the EF Pro Cycling team.
Roglic let out a roar of frustration as he crossed the line but strengthened his grip on a race he has led since replacing Carapaz by winning stage 10.
The Tour de France runner-up will be taking nothing for granted, however, with five categorised climbs to endure on the road to Alto de La Covatilla on Saturday, including a 10km slog at an average of 7% to the summit finish.