Spain's Mikel Nieve grabbed victory in the toughest mountain stage of the Giro d'Italia yesterday, while compatriot Alberto Contador took third to strengthen his bid for a second overall title.
Part of an 18-rider breakaway group, Nieve caught and dropped Italy's Stefano Garzelli six kilometres from the summit finish in Gardeccia Val di Fassa.
Garzelli took second on the stage around one minute and 41 seconds back, with Contador third and Michele Scarponi fourth. With a week to go, Contador has widened his lead to four minutes and 20 seconds over Italian Scarponi with another Italian, Vincenzo Nibali, trailing five minutes back in third.
Riding through heavy rain showers in the Dolomites, Contador went clear of his closest rivals shortly after they began scaling the fifth and final major climb of the day.
"This was the hardest grand tour stage of my life; really tough," Contador, the three-times Tour de France winner and 2008 Giro champion, said after crossing the line one minute 51 seconds behind Nieve.
"It was a real test for my head as well as for my legs, and I'm very glad it's the rest day tomorrow."