Ryder Hesjedal won a gruelling stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana as Alberto Contador strengthened his grip on the overall lead on Saturday.
Garmin-Sharp rider Hesjedal summoned up the energy for a late burst to catch Oliver Zaugg [Tinkoff-Saxo] less than 200 metres from the finishing line after a steep climb to secure victory in a demanding 200-kilometre stage from Santander to La Camperona.
Canadian Hesjedal finished in a time of five hours, 18 minutes and 10 seconds and crossed the line 10 seconds ahead of Swiss rider Zaugg, with Imanol Erviti [Movistar] a further 20 seconds back in third on a day when Cannondale leader Peter Sagan withdrew from the race.
Contador finished back in 12th, some two minutes 43secs behind Hesjedal but the Tinkoff-Saxo man now holds a 42-second lead over fellow-Spaniard Alejandro Valverde [Movistar].
Chris Froome produced a gutsy recovery to rise to third in the overall classification.
Team Sky rider Froome is now one minute 13secs adrift of Contador after finishing seven seconds in front of the overall leader, with the Brit producing a great recovery after dropping on the daunting final 8.3km ascent up La Camperona.
Froome dug deep to claw back an elite group which included Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) before making a move to leave that bunch and although he was caught, the 2013 Tour de France winner kicked again to move above Rodriguez into third.
A group of 23 made the first break from the peloton and developed a five-and-a-half-minute gap to the peloton on the descent from the first climb.
Luis Leon Sanchez and David Arroyo left the breakaway on the first slopes of the Puerto de San Glorio, but were caught just before the summit of the Puerto de San Glorio.
Yannick Martinez and Romain Sicard made the first move from a group of 12 with 17km remaining and it was Zaugg who looked to have done enough to claim the victory on the steep climb to the finish, but Hesjedal denied him to claim his first Vuelta win since 2009.
It was a stage to sort the men from the boys and the riders and the riders' stamina will be put to the test once again over the next two stages, as this was the first of three consecutive summit finishes.
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