Alberto Contador's powerful and thrilling attack in the final three kilometers of stage two at the Vuelta a Andalucia earned him second place and the new leader's jersey of the five-day race.
It was a brave move by Contador whose fierce acceleration opened a significant gap, but it was still far to go to the line, allowing his opposition to close back time. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) was the only rider to make it back to the Spaniard's wheel, catching and overtaking Contador in the final 300 meters to take the stage honors, leaving a gasping Contador in second place.
"I knew it would be hard to win today," said Contador. "I attacked, and it started off really well but my heart rate was into the red – it went up to 200bpm! It turned out to be a long ride in for me, although it wasn't bad, but I thought my heart was going to come out of my mouth as if I was a junior again!"
"Yes, I could have waited a bit longer, but I didn't want it to come back together the way it did yesterday. There was a headwind, which made it hard for me, and I didn't know the final. If I had made it alone into the final 200 meters, perhaps I might have held on."
It's a shame that I couldn't win the stage, above all for my teammates, and now I need to recover and see what I can do tomorrow.
It was another cohesive effort by Trek-Segafredo as the red and black pinstriped team put every hand on deck for their trusted leader, first bringing back the last of the day's breakaway, then positioning Contador into the final crucial uphill.
Fabio Felline continued to show his strong early-season form, taking the lead at the bottom of the steep uphill, then upping the pace and beautifully setting up Contador's attack.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who started the stage in the leader's jersey, finished in third place, seven seconds behind Pinot and now sits third in the GC, five seconds behind Contador. Pinot rests in second place by three seconds, with Ion Izagirre (Bahrain Merida) in fourth, also at five seconds.
Tomorrow's time trial, only 11.9 kilometers in length, will be exciting and decisive.
"My teammates were incredible again today," added Contador. "They worked hard to bring back the breaks and helped make the climb difficult. It was the type of climb where you must work hard to make it hard. I wasn't just thinking of winning the stage, but of punishing the opposition so that they would finish the stage exhausted. The more exhausted they are today, the better our chances tomorrow.
"In the end, it's my first race of the year, and I can really feel that. But I'm very happy. It's a shame that I couldn't win the stage, above all for my teammates, and now I need to recover and see what I can do tomorrow. Winning the GC is going to be hard. There are lots of riders within a few seconds, especially Izagirre who is a good time trialist. I have not seen the route of the time trial; we will go and see that tomorrow morning. Let's hope it's good for me."