Chris Froome moved one step closer to completing a Tour de France and La Vuelta a Espana 2017 double after taking stage nine victory in the first summit-finish leg in Spain.
The two-time Olympic medallist claimed his fourth Le Tour title earlier this year, though this stage win marks his first on the year on the road – extending his lead in the General Classification in the process.
A ten-second bonus was to come Froome’s way after crossing the line first to add to his already-healthy lead, now sitting at 36 seconds ahead of closest challenge Estevan Chaves, who took second.
But the Team Sky rider, who required a sprint to the line to stop the clock first, was quick to praise not only the actions of his teammates, but the memories of old in helping him prevail from Orihuela to Cumbre del Sol.
"Today was incredible. The way it panned out, the way my teammate rode in the final kilometres to set it up, it’s just fantastic,” he said.
“It's such a good feeling to get to the end of this first block with the red jersey and a decent gap on the rest of the GC riders.
“Finishing second at La Cumbre del Sol in 2015 was still on my mind this morning.
“We watched the scenes from two years ago over and over in the bus this morning just to really calculate the climb and know when the right moment to push was.
“The legs felt great today and it feels good to be in this position."
Following Froome and Colombian Chaves onto the stage podium was Canada’s Michael Woods, just a handful of seconds behind following the 174km epic to Benitachell.
But the effort will have felt eternally worth it for the Brit, looking to follow in the footsteps Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault in claiming the double from France and Spain.
Indeed it’s an achievement that has not been completed in 39 years, but with more than 30 seconds advantage to his name on Chaves and more than a minute to third-place Irishman Nicolas Roche, the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist will be in confident mood.
The 2017 La Vuelta will see the riders cross more than 2,000 miles before September 10, though Monday will see Froome and co enjoy a rest day prior to Tuesday’s tenth stage.