Daniel Moreno of Katusha proved unstoppable on today's short but punishing final climb at Valdepeñas de Jaén to win Stage 9 of the 2013 Vuelta and swap the green points jersey he wore this afternoon for the red jersey of race leader.
The man who wore that on today's stage, Nicolas Roche of Saxo-Tinkoff, drove desperately for the line to try and hold onto the overall lead, but loses it by a solitary second, finishing in fourth, 8 seconds behind Moreno, who also gets a 10 second bonus for winning the stage.
The other time bonuses went to Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, who finished second, and in third place the man Moreno helped win on this very same climb in the 2011 edition of the race, Joaquin Rodriguez.
He, together with other Katusha team mates, had worked hard to help Moreno realise his dream of a stage win in his own backyard, particularly towards the end of the 174.3km stage from Antequera to close down an attack from Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Edvald Boasson Hagen attacks (© Unipublic/Graham Watson)
The Norwegian was reeled in ahead of that final climb, only a kilometre long but with a gradient hitting 30 per cent in places.
Cannondale's Ivan Basso launched an attack immediatelty the road headed uphill, but once Moreno - who also won Stage 4 of this year's Vuelta - made his move, he quickly pulled out a gap over his pursuers as he rode to victory and into the red jersey.
Daniel Moreno in the leader's jersey (© Unipublic/Graham Watson)
Questioned following the stage, the new leader of the 68th edition of the Vuelta insisted that today's stage would not be decisive for the final victory.
"In this case, I don’t think so. It was a finale that required a lot of power and energy but I got a more important profit over the likes of Vincenzo Nibali yesterday. The other good news today is that Purito [Joaquin Rodriguez] has moved back up on GC.
Reminded that he had lost a second shy of 1 minute following the opening day's team time trial in Galicia, he reflected: "I struggled a bit in that stage, especially in a hill towards the end. We needed to be five riders finishing together. But we limited the damage. I don’t think it was a too bad performance from us. That’s why we could compensate the loss in the uphill finishes.
The 31-year-old still sees Rodriguez, third in last year's Vuelta, as potentially his team's strongest challenger for the overall: "Slowly, I’ve moved into the lead but the last week is going to be hard. Having the red jersey now doesn’t change anything for me.
"I deserve it today and I’ll defend it but not crazily. Tomorrow, Ivan Basso can be very strong for example. Anything can happen. Purito and Nibali have the endurance. They know how to handle the distance over three weeks. It’s a really long race with very strong riders."
Nicolas Roche in red jersey of overall leader (© Unipublic/Graham Watson)
That crucial second that Moreno took off Roche today sees the Spaniard take the red jersey from the Irishman, whose father Stephen won both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia.
Afterwards, Roche said: “I was afraid of this scenario. Dani Moreno showed in the last few days that he can finish fast. He didn’t come out of shadow. He has won world class races before.
"I wasn’t hoping for that but I thought it might happen. That’s why we didn’t chase the breakaway down as we preferred not to give Moreno a chance to get some time bonus.
"Today I’m a bit sad to lose the red jersey but yesterday was wonderful. Every day is different. Remember that last year, the Vuelta completely changed with four days to go.
"Hopefully I can do a good time trial. I lose the lead for one second but I haven’t had a bad stage today. I finish fourth. I was already 5th and 6th the last two times here at Valdepeñas de Jaén. At some stage, I saved as much energy as I could thinking of the last climb.
"But I don’t want to be satisfied with myself too soon. I might lose in minutes what I gained in seconds today over some adversaries. It’s always hard for a rider who has done the Tour de France to know how long the form will last at the Vuelta.
"The last week might be a complete different story.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.