Jonas Vingegaard soloed to victory in the Vuelta a Espana stage 16 on Tuesday to climb to second overall, 29 seconds behind team-mate and race leader Sepp Kuss.
The American has led the standings since stage eight but back-to-back Tour de France winner Vingegaard has now trimmed that advantage to a narrow margin.
Vingegaard admitted on Monday’s rest day he suffered severe stomach problems in the first few stages of the race and said he was glad to still be involved, now he is firmly in contention for a third Grand Tour triumph.
Earlier Tuesday another rider for the Dutch team, Nathan Van Hooydonck, was left in hospital after being involved in a car crash in Belgium.
“I’m just happy to win today, we had some terrible news this morning, I wanted to win for my best friend,” Vingegaard said.
“There is good news about it, about his condition, that’s a big relief for me and for the team, and I hope he will recover soon.”
Vingegaard would not be drawn on whether he would wrestle the red jersey on Wednesday from Kuss, who usually takes an assisting role rather than the limelight.
“I just want to enjoy this moment and not think about that,” he added.
The peloton kept up a high speed on the wet run from Liencres beach to Bejes in Cantabria, a short 120.5 kilometres with a tricky category two climb finale.
The race started in the rain with plenty of attacks, but no solid breakaway formed, the group intact after 50 kilometres.
Halfway through the race the day’s break finally formed, including green jersey holder Kaden Groves.
It was swallowed up with 10 kilometres to go and Vingegaard attacked first on the final climb with four remaining.
Nobody could catch him and now he sits close behind Kuss with three-time Vuelta winner and their team-mate Primoz Roglic third, one minute and 33 behind the red jersey holder.
Stage 17 on Wednesday will likely be a crucial one in the general classification battle, running 124.5 kilometres between Ribadesella and Altu de L’Angliru.
⛰️⚡️ El estreno de Bejes nos regala un baile de los favoritos en sus duras rampas. Revive YA el ÚLTIMO KM.
— La Vuelta (@lavuelta) September 12, 2023