Vejer de la Frontera - Spaniard Alejandro Valverde claimed victory on the fourth stage of Spain's Vuelta on Tuesday as Slovakia's Peter Sagan again had to settle for second place.
Sagan won his first Grand Tour stage for two years on Monday after finishing second five times at the Tour de France last month, but couldn't match Valverde's pace up a short and steep climb to the finish of the 209.6km ride from Estepona to Vejer de la Frontera.
Spain's Dani Moreno finished third.
Esteban Chaves of Colombia retains his overall lead by five seconds from Dutchman Tom Dumoulin with Ireland's Nicholas Roche a further 10 seconds back.
However, Valverde moves into fifth overall and leads Movistar teammate Nairo Quintana and Britain's Chris Froome by eight and 12 seconds respectively in the battle among the favourites to win the three-week tour.
Froome is aiming to become just the third man in history to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta in the same year.
"Looking at the profile of the stage on the internet we saw that the final climb was very demanding and could be a good one for me," said Valverde.
"Clearly the stage victory is the most important thing. The time gained in the general classification is an added bonus, but there is still a long way to go.
"Today I won, but Nairo was very attentive to what was going on around me and we will continue to work together."
The majority of the stage was marked by an early six-man breakaway group of Mickael Delage (FDJ) Bert Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nikolas Maes (Etixx-Quick Step), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) and Markel Irizar (Trek) who built up a lead of 13min 30 sec by the 30 kilometre mark.
The peloton reacted to ensure the gap didn't become insurmountable and despite some resistence from Engoulvent and Irizar they were eventually caught after nearly 200km in the breakaway with 11km to go.
Saxo-Tinkoff then pushed the peloton on at a fierce pace to try and set up Sagan once more, but it was Samuel Sanchez and Roche who were the first to attack for the line two kilometres out.
Valverde bided his time to perfection, though, as he jumped ahead of Sagan to claim not only the stage victory but 10 bonus seconds to aid his chances of a second overall Vuelta win.
The race continues with a 167.3km ride from Rota to Alcala de Guadaira on Wednesday.
Results from Vuelta fourth stage, a 209.6km ride from Estepona to Vejer de la Frontera on Tuesday:
Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 5h07min 30sec, 2. Peter Sagan (SVK/TIN) at
same time, 3. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) s.t., 4. Nicolas Roche (IRL/SKY)
s.t., 5. Jose Goncalves (POR/CJR) s.t., 6. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT)
s.t., 7. Julien Simon (FRA/COF) s.t., 8. Rafal Majka (POL/TIN) s.t., 9.
Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) s.t., 10. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) s.t., 11.
Romain Hardy (FRA/COF) s.t., 12. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) s.t., 13. Tom
Dumoulin (NED/GIA) s.t., 14. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) s.t., 15.
Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) s.t., 16. Peio Bilbao (ESP/CJR) s.t., 17. Mikel
Landa (ESP/AST) s.t., 18. Gianluca Brambilla (ITA/ETI) s.t., 19. Fabrice
Jeandesboz (FRA/EUC) s.t., 20. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) s.t.
Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) 13h11min 31sec, 2. Tom Dumoulin (NED/GIA) at
0:05, 3. Nicolas Roche (IRL/SKY) 0:15, 4. Daniel Martin (IRL/CAN) 0:24,
5. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 0:28, 6. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT)
0:35, 7. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) 0:36, 8. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 0:36,
9. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 0:40, 10. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 0:47, 11. Mikel
Landa (ESP/AST) 0:51, 12. Mikel Nieve (ESP/SKY) 0:51, 13. Tejay Van
Garderen (USA/BMC) 0:55, 14. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) 1:04, 15.
Gianluca Brambilla (ITA/ETI) 1:04, 16. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 1:06, 17.
Rafal Majka (POL/TIN) 1:14, 18. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP/AST) 1:14, 19.
Andr Cardoso (POR/CAN) 1:15, 20. Louis Meintjies (RSA/MTN) 1:21.