Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto powered away from the field on the ascent to the finish to take a solo stage win in Malaga. Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha gave chase but was only able to take second place, with third going to Eusakaltel's Igor Anton.
Gilbert took over the general classification lead as sprinter Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) finished well back on the Vuelta's first mountain stage. Rodriguez is second at 14 seconds, with HTC-Columbia's Kanstantsin Sivtsov third at 22 seconds.
A seven-man group dominated the stage from the first climb to the second climb. Biel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Javier Ramirez (Andalucia-Cajasur), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Mikael Cherel (FDJ), Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Niki Terpstra (Milram) and Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo Galicia) built up a lead of nearly nine minutes. The group fell apart on the final climb up the category one-ranked Puerto del Leon, with only Serafin Martinez able to stay away.
Martinez looked to have things wrapped up, but the peloton gave its all and caught him with exactly one kilometre to go at the flamme rouge. Liquigas led the way, but it was Gilbert who pulled away to take the victory on the climb to the finish.