Germany's Andreas Klier savoured victory in the 13th stage of the Tour of Spain in Torre-Pacheco on Friday as the race's first breakaway finally made it to the finish line unhindered.
Russian Denis Menchov, of the Rabobank team, retained the race lead ahead of Saturday's 14th stage, which features a tough day of climbing for the peloton and the yellow jersey favourites.
Klier came over the finish ahead of Gerolsteiner's Tom Stamsnijder, who had been in a breakaway with the T-Mobile rider and Frenchman Jeremy Roy since the 20km mark. As Klier upped the pace in the closing kilometres Roy found the going too tough and trailed off the back.
That left Klier and Stamsnijder to race to the finish, where the Dutchman's legs gave way less than 50 metres from the finish line. Roy finished in third, 24secs further back.
"On paper, I was the faster rider," said the 31-year-old Klier, who was doubly delighted with the win since the majority of his season was ruined by a crash in the spring.
The peloton, with Menchov and the rest of the overall favourites, trailed in four minutes in arrears.
Menchov, who won the race by default two years ago when Spaniard Roberto Heras was suspended post-race for a positive EPO (erythropoietin) test, holds a 2min 01sec lead of compatriot Vladimir Efimkin of Caisse d'Epargne. Tour de France runner-up Cadel Evans, of Predictor-Lotto, is still a huge threat in third at 2:27 while CSC's Spanish all rounder Carlos Sastre, the runner-up in 2005, is fourth at 3:02.
Saturday's 14th stage is a hilly 207 km from Puerto Lumbreras to Villacarrillo, and could feature skirmishes in the battle for the race lead. The stage will kick off without Belgian Quick Step rider Tom Boonen and Italian Davide Rebellin of Gerolsteiner, both of whom pulled out before the 13th stage. Organisers said that the pair were withdrawing in order to prepare for this month's World Road Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. But Boonen later admitted that he had had trouble breathing and complained of a possible broken rib.