Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) denied Tao Geoghegan Hart a first victory since his Giro d’Italia triumph last year on Stage 6 of the Criterium du Dauphine.
Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) tried to copy teammate Geraint Thomas’ win on Thursday, launching a surprise early attack off the front of the main bunch.
But the Brit’s legs failed at him as he approached the line, allowing Valverde to swoop past the 2020 Giro d’Italia champion.
Giro di Sicilia
Valverde wins Stage 3 at Tour of Sicily, then crashes immediately
- Britain’s Thomas takes stage five victory at Criterium
- Thomas' unrivalled resilience can haul him to second Tour de France title - Wiggins
- Tour de Suisse: Mountains, time trials and Tom Dumoulin
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Premier-Tech) moved into the lead in the general classification, with teammate Ion Izagirre and Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) eight and 12 seconds back respectively. Thomas has a share of fourth, 13 seconds adrift.
Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation) put in a promising display before being dropped in the final 10 kilometres after the day’s toughest climb.
The Brit, who is fighting for a spot at the Tour de France, finished nearly three minutes down on Valverde.
“I’m so, so happy." Valverde said after the race.
"Before anything, I have to mention, and congratulate and thank my team-mates, for all the work they’ve done for the past few days, ever since the start of the race and even more so today.
"Close to the Line, López told me on the radio: ‘Should I push, so no one can attack?’ I told him to go ahead – and I have to thank him especially for that, because he was incredible. INEOS put on a big pace before the sprint, but as soon as Geraint Thomas stopped pushing, I knew I couldn’t hesitate:
I had to go full-gas to cover that move from Tao. I tried to keep him close, and as soon as I saw the finishing banner, I well on full steam.
"A special victory? Every single one I get is special, even more so now – being up there with the best, contesting these victory, is even more beautiful after everything I’ve done as a pro.
"The GC? Well, we’ve got Miguel Ángel and Enric, who have shown to be really strong so far, and there’s two big mountain stages ahead where any of them can aim at the top spots.”
Vuelta a España
Opinion: Time running out for Spain in search of elusive Vuelta stage win
Vuelta a España
Opinion: Time to drop the hammer – Ineos can't sit on their hands much longer, they must attack