Primoz Roglic pipped teammate Jonas Vingegaard after climbing the infamous Angliru to win stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana on Wednesday, as Sepp Kuss hung on grimly to the leader's red jersey after finishing third.
The Jumbo Visma team had it all their own way on the final part of the gruelling climb to the finish. With Kuss, the overall leader struggling, it was left to Vingegaard and Roglic to battle for the stage win.
A 124.5 kilometre ride through Asturias finishing at the Angliru, with two category one climbs before reaching the mighty summit, was dominated by Remco Evenepoel, last year's Vuelta winner, before the Belgian ran out of steam.
Roglic crossed the finish line with Vingegaard on his back wheel, while Kuss, who held a 29-second advantage over Vingegaard heading into the stage, saw his overall lead cut to just eight seconds by his Danish teammate.
The final part of the stage saw the Jumbo Visma team do battle with Team Bahrain Victorious. Three riders from each team led the way into the final four kilometres in the mist and fog of the Angliru.
With two kilometres left to climb, the Jumbo Visma trio, as they have done throughout this Vuelta, made it a race between themselves.
Kuss was first to crack. Vingegaard glanced over his shoulder as Kuss fell behind, but ignored his struggles and soldiered on to the top.
The American was then joined by Mikel Landa and tried to limit the gap to the leaders as he battled to keep hold of the red jersey.
As they hit the downhill section to the line, Roglic came in first, his second stage win of this Vuelta, with Vingegaard close behind. Kuss came in ahead of Landa, but 19 seconds down on Vingegaard.
"It’s a position I never expected to be in and that's the beautiful thing about it," Kuss said, after just about holding on to the overall lead.
"I came in without any expectations and I was just looking to help the guys – like always – but then I came into this beautiful jersey and all the experiences that come with it."
Vingegaard, who retained his Tour de France title this year, said he still hopes Kuss holds on for the win.
"The win today was our main goal and to keep the situation – one, two, three on GC – so I think everything went the way we wanted," the Dane said.
"I think we can be happy with everything and, to be honest, I'm happy that Sepp (Kuss) is still in the jersey. I would love to see Sepp win this Vuelta a Espana."
Roglic, who won this year's Giro d'Italia and is now one minute eight seconds off the lead in third place, was also hopeful that Kuss could hold on but is still going all out for victory himself.
"I'm the first one to say that Sepp is there with all our victories, he's there. I wish he wins," Roglic said.
"But looking to myself and my responsibilities, who I am, I'm here to race, I'm here to do my best, and at the end, the best one will win."
Thursday's stage 18 is another mountain stage, a 179km ride from Pola de Allande to La Cruz de Linares.
STAGE 17 RESULTS
1. Primož Roglic (SLO) Jumbo - Visma 3:15:56
2. Jonas Vingegaard (DEN) Jumbo - Visma "
3. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo - Visma +19
4. Mikel Landa (ESP) Bahrain Victorious "
5. Wout Poels (NED) Bahrain Victorious +44
6. João Almeida (POR) UAE Team Emirates +58
7. Cian Uijtdebroeks (BEL) BORA - hansgrohe +1:20
8. Santiago Buitrago (COL) Bahrain Victorious "
9. Juan Ayuso (ESP) UAE Team Emirates +1:42
10. Enric Mas (ESP) Movistar Team +1:43
11. Steff Cras (BEL) TotalEnergies +2:17
12. Romain Bardet (FRA) Team dsm-firmenich +2:43
13. Aleksandr Vlasov () BORA - hansgrohe +2:55
14. Cristián Rodríguez (ESP) Team Arkéa - Samsic +3:10
15. Lennert Van Eetvelt (BEL) Lotto - Dstny +3:31
16. Louis Vervaeke (BEL) Soudal - Quick-Step +3:58
17. Damiano Caruso (ITA) Bahrain Victorious +4:07
18. Antonio Tiberi (ITA) Bahrain Victorious +4:10
19. Einer Rubio (COL) Movistar Team +4:58
20. Pelayo Sánchez (ESP) Burgos - BH +5:05
1. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo - Visma 60:34:21
2. Jonas Vingegaard (DEN) Jumbo - Visma +8
3. Primož Roglic (SLO) Jumbo - Visma +1:08
4. Juan Ayuso (ESP) UAE Team Emirates +4:00
5. Mikel Landa (ESP) Bahrain Victorious +4:16
6. Enric Mas (ESP) Movistar Team +4:30
7. Cian Uijtdebroeks (BEL) BORA - hansgrohe +6:43
8. Aleksandr Vlasov () BORA - hansgrohe +7:38
9. João Almeida (POR) UAE Team Emirates +9:26
10. Santiago Buitrago (COL) Bahrain Victorious +11:26
11. Steff Cras (BEL) TotalEnergies +12:02
12. Cristián Rodríguez (ESP) Team Arkéa - Samsic +18:29
13. Marc Soler (ESP) UAE Team Emirates +21:56
14. Juan Pedro López (ESP) Lidl - Trek +29:48
15. Remco Evenepoel (BEL) Soudal - Quick-Step +37:38
16. Wout Poels (NED) Bahrain Victorious +40:37
17. Einer Rubio (COL) Movistar Team +43:49
18. Emanuel Buchmann (GER) BORA - hansgrohe +51:47
19. Attila Valter (HUN) Jumbo - Visma +55:34
20. Antonio Tiberi (ITA) Bahrain Victorious +56:35