Spaniard Carlos Barredo grabbed the first Grand Tour stage of his career when he fought through rain and fog to win the Tour of Spain 15th stage atop the mighty Lagos de Covadonga climb.
Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, riding for Liquigas, held on to his slim lead over Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez after coming over the finish line of the 187km nearly two and a half minutes in arrears.
Nibali kept his 4sec lead on Caisse d'Epargne's Rodriguez intact but saw his 50sec overnight lead on Ezequiel Mosquera reduced to 39sec after the Spaniard battled to gain vital seconds in the final kilometres of the climb.
Despite several close calls, Quick Step climber Barredo had yet to add a stage win from a Grand Tour to a relatively small honours list which notably includes his victory in the San Sebastian Classic last year.
The Spaniard made amends in spectacular style, however, after battling to escape from the peloton with a six-man group which eventually broke free with 70km remaining.
Barredo made his second decisive move when he followed Peter Velits, of HTC-Columbia, after the Slovakian attacked just after the start of the 12km climb to Covadonga, a climb which Spanish cycling fans liken to the legendary Tour de France climbs the Mont Ventoux or L'Alpe d'Huez.
With the closest riders several minutes in his wake Barredo never seemed under threat, although poor visibility and the rain-soaked roads gave him food for thought on the bends and some of the climb's flatter sections.
Barredo came over the finish pointing to his jersey, and later paid credit to his team who he says has stuck by him despite him missing out on several big wins.
"I've been fighting for this for a long time. This season I've missed out on a number of big wins but now I've won this," said the 29-year-old Barredo.
"Quick Step have been there for me, given me everything and helped me to progress. I want to thank them. This win is for them, and for my father."
Former Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, riding for Cervelo, made a brief attempt to escape from the small peloton being led by Nibali, but his move only served as a launchpad for Mosquera.
When Sastre was countered by Nibali's Czech teammate Roman Kreuziger, Mosquera kept on going but made no impact on Barredo's lead and came over the finish line over two minutes behind his fellow Spaniard.
Mosquera, fifth overall last year, is a weaker rider in the time trial than Nibali. Ahead of the final race against the clock on Wednesday, the Spaniard said he will use every possible chance to attack the Italian on the climbs.
"You can't forget he's a strong time triallist, and so we have to take every chance we get on the stages that are more favourable to us," said the Spaniard.
Nibali will carry his slim lead into Monday's 16th stage, a 179.3km ride over medium mountain terrain from Gijon which finishes on the Alto de Cotobello. With three category one climbs, the Italian will be on the lookout for attacks from both Rodriguez and Mosquera.
Tuesday is a rest day while Wednesday's 17th stage is a pancake flat time trial over 46km around Penafiel. The race finishes in Madrid on Sunday.
© AFP 2010
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