Britain’s Simon Yates extended his Vuelta lead with a strong showing in Tuesday’s individual time trial on stage 16.
Australia’s Rohan Dennis won the 32km race from Santillana del Mar to Torrelavega in 37mins 57secs – 50secs clear of his BMC Racing team-mate Joseph Rosskopf of the United States.
Yates, who rides for Mitchelton-Scott, finished 13th, 1min 28secs behind Dennis, but crucially ahead of all bar two of his rivals for the general classification.
Dutch rider Steven Kruijswijk (Lotto-NL Jumbo) was fourth on the stage, 37secs ahead of Yates, and Spain’s Enric Mas (Quickstep Floors) was sixth, 25secs ahead of the Briton.
But Spain’s Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Colombia’s Nairo Quintana (Movistar) conceded seven and 42 seconds to Yates, respectively.
Dennis is not in overall contention and was targeting the stage as preparation for the Road World Championships time trial later this month.
Yates had, on Monday’s rest day, attempted to downplay his chances of holding the red jersey all the way to Madrid, but the 26-year-old Bury rider has a cushion with four days of racing remaining ahead of Sunday’s processional stage in the Spanish capital.
Yates now leads from Valverde by 33secs, with Kruijswijk, who had begun the day 1min 29secs behind, now third, 52secs adrift. Quintana dropped to fourth, 1min 15secs behind.
The British rider can expect to come under attack from his GC rivals in Wednesday’s hilly 17th stage, the 157km route from Getxo to Balcon de Bizkaia in the Basque Country.