Madrid - Sweden's Frederik Kessiakoff won the 11th stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Wednesday, a 39km individual time-trial from Cambados to Pontevedra in Galicia.
Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez, of the Katusha team, has just a fingernail's grip on the overall leader's red jersey, however.
He now lies one second ahead of compatriot and 2008 Vuelta champion Alberto Contador, back from a two-year drugs ban, and 16 seconds in front of Great Britain's Chris Froome, the runner-up at this year's Tour de France.
The 32-year-old Kessiakoff of Team Astana stamped his authority on the time-trial with an impressive time of 52min 32sec, beating Saxo Bank's Contador by 17 seconds and Froome of Team Sky by 39 seconds.
It is the Swede's first stage win in a major tour, though he had fired a warning shot in the 2012 Tour of Switzerland by winning an individual time-trial there.
Among the favourites, Contador gained the most ground in the time-trial, seemingly at ease as he took advantage of a third-category climb of about 10km up Monte Castrove.
The Spanish climber clawed back 22 seconds on Froome, but could not reach Rodriguez.
On Thursday the riders face a spectacular 190km coastal route through Galicia from Vilagarcia de Arousa to Mirador de Ezaro, a third-category mountain pass with inclinations of over 13 percent.
Leading riders in the 11th stage of the Spanish Vuelta, a 39.4km individual time-trial between Cambados and Pontevedra on Wednesday:
1. Fredrik Kessiakoff (SWE/AST) 52min 36sec, 2. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) at 0:17sec, 3. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 0:39, 4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 1min 08sec, 5. Benat Intxausti (ESP/MOV) 1:09, 6. Richie Porte (AUS/SKY) 1:15, 7. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 1:16, 8. Cameron Meyer (AUS/GEC) 1:17, 9. Andrew Talansky (USA/GRM) 1:24, 10. Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP/MOV) 1:34, 11. Tony Martin (GER/OPQ) 1:39, 12. Robert Gesink (NED/RAB) 1:42, 13. Thomas De Gendt (BEL/VAC) 1:50, 14. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC) 1:57, 15. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) 2:02, 16. Tiago Machado (POR/RSH) 2:04, 17. Maxime Bouet (FRA/ALM) 2:05, 18. Lars Boom (NED/RAB) 2:06, 19. Juan Antonio Flecha (ESP/SKY) 2:16, 20. Laurens ten Dam (NED/RAB) 2:20
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 40hr 26min 15sec, 2. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) at 0:01sec, 3. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 0:16, 4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 0:59, 5. Robert Gesink (NED/RAB) at 2min 27sec, 6. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) 2:54, 7. Nicolas Roche (EIR/ALM) 3:39, 8. Andrew Talansky (USA/GRM) 4:08, 9. Laurens ten Dam (NED/RAB) 4:22, 10. Bauke Mollema (NED/RAB) 5:10, 11. Igor Anton (ESP/EUS) 5:29, 12. Winner Anacona (COL/LAM) 5:31, 13. Tomasz Marczynski (POL/VAC) 5:52, 14. Maxime Monfort (BEL/RSH) 5:56, 15. Benat Intxausti (ESP/MOV) 5:56, 16. Eros Capecchi (ITA/LIQ) 5:56, 17. Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA/ALM) 6:16, 18. Przemyslaw Niemiec (POL/LAM) 6:25, 19. Bart De Clercq (BEL/LTB) 7:00, 20. Steve Morabito (SWI/BMC) 7:10