Mikel Nieve jumped up to eighth place overall after a gutsy display on the penultimate stage at the Vuelta a Espana.
The Basque climber all but secured his best ever Grand Tour finish after a dramatic day of climbing decided the general classification ahead of the run to Madrid.
Despite slipping back in the face of fierce attacks on the penultimate climb, Nieve hung tough as the GC contenders all finished in select groups into Cercedilla.
The reward was eighth overall, seven minutes and 26 seconds back on new leader Fabio Aru (Astana). The Italian launched his bid for Vuelta victory as his Astana team-mates ramped up the pace on the Puerto de la Morcuera, putting the red jersey of Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) into difficulties he could not come back from.
Dumoulin dropped back to sixth overall after trying to limit his losses over the final climb, riding alongside Nieve before the Team Sky rider pushed on up the road. The end result saw Aru inherit a 1:17 lead over Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), with just the largely ceremonial final stage remaining on Sunday.
While most eyes were on the close GC battle heading into the day there was a big stage win up for grabs. Sergio Henao and Nicolas Roche represented Team Sky as a huge move of 36 riders combined forces up the road.
Safety in numbers did not appeal to Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), with the Spaniard embarking on a brave 117km solo crusade which ended in an impressive stage victory, 1:07 clear.
With attacks all around him Henao hung on for seventh place, rebounding well from an early-race crash which blunted his challenge. Roche and Vasil Kiryienka latched onto Dumoulin's group on the run to the finish, but after a race-long battle it was Movistar who made sure of the team GC at the conclusion of the stage.
"Once stage was out of hand [I] dropped back to give a bit of help to Nieve. Congrats to him for a great ride today that made him jump into 8th," Roche tweeted after the stage.
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