Jonas Vingegaard has gone solo on a brutal uphill finish to win stage 16 of the Vuelta a Espana as race leader and Jumbo-Visma team mate Sepp Kuss struggled in the finale on Tuesday.
The Danish Tour de France winner broke away after he took off like a rocket with just under four km remaining on the steep climb to Bejes following an otherwise flat ride along Spain's picturesque northern coast.
Vingegaard powered to the line 43 seconds ahead of New Zealander Finn Fisher-Black (UAE Team Emirates) and Dutchman Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), who was 49 seconds in arrears.
Australia's Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ) was fourth, a further six seconds adrift and the only other rider within a minute of Vingegaard.
Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) got into an early breakaway which enabled him to win the intermediate sprint and gain another 20 points on Remco Evanepoel. That increased the Australian's lead to 93 in the contest for the points jersey.
American Kuss held on to the leader's red jersey but finished more than one minute behind Vingegaard and now leads the standings by only 29 seconds.
Primoz Roglic, who won this year's Giro d'Italia, completes a Jumbo-Visma top three and is 1:33 behind Kuss.
Kuss said the team strategy had been for Roglic to go for the stage win, but Vingegaard "attacked in the perfect moment and rode up like a bullet."
As for which of the three Jumbo-Visma riders will be positioned to win the race, Kuss said that "the strongest should win and the third week will decide everything."
Vingegaard dedicated the win to his hospitalised teammate Nathan van Hooydonck, who suffered serious injuries in a car accident at home in Belgium after falling ill at the wheel.
"I'm just happy to win today because we had some terrible news this morning and I wanted to win for my best friend today," Vingegaard told Eurosport.
"Luckily now there is good news about his condition and it's a big relief for me and for the team."
Wednesday's 17th stage is a 124.5km ride finishing atop the Altu de L'Angliru summit, a classic Vuelta ascent. The three-week race finishes in Madrid on Sunday.
- with AP