Sergio Henao and Lars-Petter Nordhaug both claimed top 10 finishes on the third stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
The pair finished eighth and tenth respectively behind Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) who powered to victory on the queen stage into Eibar for the third year in succession to take the overall lead in the WorldTour event.
The remnants of an early break - Movistar's José Herrada and Katusha pair Giampaolo Caruso and Ángel Vicioso - had been hoovered up on the slopes of that late climb as huge crowds lined the roads for a pivotal stage.
And Sánchez made his move on the final climb of the Alto de Usartza at the end of the 164 kilometres route from Vitoria-Gasteiz, bridging the gap to Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) and Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) who had jumped clear of what was left of the peloton with 4.5km remaining.
Henao so nearly made that elite front selection but couldn't quite stick with Sánchez and the leading trio quickly established a lead of 15 seconds going over the top with 2km remaining and always had just enough in reserve on the downhill run into the finish.
Showing his trademark kick before the final corner, Spaniard Sánchez comfortably claimed the victory again in Eibar, with Rodríguez taking second and Horner third - and the trio now occupy the same positions on the general classification.
There were 12 seconds back to a group of 17 riders which included Henao and Nordhaug.
That saw Nordhaug ease up to 11th in the overall standings, with Henao 17th. Michael Rogers is 30th after crossing the line 59 seconds back while Thomas Löfkvist is 50th, a further 53 seconds adrift.
Afterwards Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist said of Henao and Nordhaug "They are both showing really good form which is nice to see. They are just a few seconds back so anything can happen yet.
"Sergio had attacked just before Sanchez went so it was hard for him to then follow but it was a very promising performance because it’s been a while since Sergio raced.
"Mick lost a little bit more time which obviously wasn’t the plan but he didn’t quite have the legs to follow them at the end there. But there’s another hard day to come tomorrow and then you have the time trial so there are still opportunities."
Thursday is another crucial day in the fight for the general classification which finishes with the climb to Bera-Ibardin and Ljungqvist added: "We're right in the mix and tomorrow should be more of the same; while the last climb isn’t as tough on paper as today, the last part is very steep so it’s going to be full-on racing again."