Juan Antonio Flecha claimed a gutsy third as the day's breakaway prevailed on stage 13 at the Vuelta a Espana.
The Spaniard was one of seven riders to forge ahead after 45 kilometres of racing and put up a spirited fight as the escapees held on at the finish.
It had been Flecha who attacked first with six kilometres to go, splitting apart the group ahead of a counter-attack from former Team Sky rider Steve Cummings.
That proved to be the winning move as the BMC Racing rider took an impressive solo victory, four seconds ahead of Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Flecha after a nail-biting run-in.
The peloton followed 40 seconds later led by Team Sky with Ian Stannard leading out Ben Swift to ninth place, while Chris Froome crossed the line safely to maintain third spot.
Positioned safely in the bunch were the rest of the race’s main GC contenders, with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) making it 10 days in the red jersey, leading by 13 seconds over Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and 51 over Froome.
In it to win it
The question of whether a breakaway or a bunch sprint would win out was on everyone’s lips as the race departed from Santiago de Compostela on Friday morning ahead of 172.8km of racing.
For the second day running there was an intense fight to make the decisive move, 24 riders getting away briefly after a series of moves. 45km in and the move of the day went, albeit only ever gaining a maximum advantage of 3:50.
Lotto-Belisol and Argos-Shimano combined at the head of the peloton to police the situation but a determined break, combined with a technical and undulating run-in, would eventually play into the hands of the escapees.
With that realisation setting in there were a number of attacks out of the peloton with 12km to go, John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) proving his strength by following in the wheels but with nothing sticking it was Cummings who was left to take a hard-earned victory.
Chance of success
Sports Director Nicolas Portal was happy to see the team on the front foot at the head of the race while, at the same time, preparing for the challenges ahead.
“It was very close for Flecha," he said. "It was unfortunate that he couldn’t take the win as he was very strong. It is never easy to win from those situations but he certainly gave it his best. Hats off to Steve Cummings who rode really well in the final to get the win.
“There were a lot of attacks early on and some really big groups going clear. The team did a really good job to cover the moves and then when it settled down we could look to save as much energy as possible ahead of the coming days.
“It is going to be a big fight tomorrow on the Puerto de Ancares and we will look to give Froomey the best possible chance.”