Tour de France victor Chris Froome has continued his assault on the Vuelta a Espana with an explosive late sprint on the Puig Llorenc climb to win stage nine on Sunday.
The four-times Tour de France champion finished four seconds ahead of Columbia's Esteban Chaves to extend his hold on the red jersey and further boost his chances of becoming the first rider to complete a Vuelta-Tour double since 1978.
The Briton had support from Sky teammates Gianni Moscon and Mikel Nieve as the peloton caught up with the breakaway in the final climb of the 174km medium mountain stage in Alicante province in punishing heat.
Froome darted ahead of Nieve in the final kilometres, holding off a late attack from nearest challenger Chaves while leaving Spaniard Alberto Contador behind, 12 seconds adrift.
"I put everything I had into that last couple of hundred metres. I was determined that they weren't going to catch me," Froome told reporters.
"I'm really, really happy to get the victory. The team did a brilliant job on that final climb and set such a good tempo."
The four-times Tour de France champion finished four seconds ahead of Chaves to extend his hold on the red jersey over the Colombian and further boost his chances of becoming the first rider to complete a Vuelta-Tour double since 1978.
"The legs are feeling great. I've been to the Vuelta so many times, trying to target this race, and so far it feels like everything is going really well," Froome said.
Canada's Michael Woods finished five seconds behind Froome in third after a strong display from his Cannondale-Drapac team, who learned on Saturday that their future is up in the air as they struggle to find a sponsor for next season.
Monday is the Vuelta's first rest day with the action returning Tuesday for the 10th stage between Caravaca and Alhama de Murcia.
"After a week we couldn't have asked to be in a better position. It's been a fantastic start to the Vuelta," Froome said.
The leading New Zealander in the field, Aaron Gate, is one and a half hours behind Froome in 153rd place.