Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez, riding for Katusha, won Saturday's 14th stage of the Tour of Spain to strengthen his overall lead after the 149.2km mountain stage ride from Palas de Rei to Puerto de Ancares.
Having already bagged the 6th and 12th stages, Rodriguez pocketed another as he negotiated the tough final Ancares climb, holding off compatriot and nearest rival Alberto Contador of Saxo-Bank by 5sec with another Spaniard, Alejandro Valverde, 3rd at 13sec.
That, coupled with bonuses, saw Rodriguez, initially regarded as an outside bet but now looking a true challenger, extend his overall lead over Contador to 22sec.
Valverde stands joint third in the overall standings with Briton Chris Froome, 1min 41sec off the pace.
Contador strove to narrow the gap and tried an escape 3.5km out, but Rodriguez and Valverde stayed with him and the former overhauled him in the final kilometre as he sprinted home.
At 19km, a group had ventured an early escape from the peloton with Italian Alessandro Ballan of Lampre and Frenchman David Moncoutie of Cofidis trying their luck before they were reined in.
Heading into the Ancares climb Alberto Losada of Katusha, who had been in the mix with Ballan and Moncoutie, stepped up the pace as he tried an ambitious tilt at a stage win but having opened up a minute lead on the peloton he was finally caught with 3km to go to the line.
Belgian Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), fourth in the Tour de France and former Spanish national champion Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) did not start the stage.
Tuesday sees the racers head into the second mountain stage - a 186.5km slog from La Robla to Lagos de Covadonga in the rugged, northern region of Asturias.