PICO VILLUERCAS, Spain : Romain Bardet won stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana with a commanding performance in the mountains, enjoying a cathartic victory after a nasty crash on stage three which put him out of contention in the general classification.
Odd Christian Eiking retained the overall lead but reigning champion and race favourite Primoz Roglic, in third, shaved 20 seconds off his advantage while Guillaume Martin stayed second, gaining four seconds.
Bardet attacked with 6km to go on the final ascent to rein in Andrey Zeits and Nicolas Prodhomme and remained in front until the end of the punishing summit of Pico Villuercas, coming across the line 44 seconds before second-placed Jesus Herrada.
Australian Jay Vine came third despite hitting the floor as he lost his balance while taking a water bottle from a team car.
Norwegian Eiking holds a 54-second lead over Frenchman Martin and a one minute, 36 second advantage over Slovenian Roglic.
"It’s been a long wait. It means a lot. I’ve been second too many times," Bardet told reporters.
"It’s fantastic. I had a hard time to catch the other guys in front of me because I had the feeling that no one really wanted to commit in the break.
"I think we played it smart with my sports director and he told me exactly when to attack on the steepest part of the climb and go for it as if the finish was there in front of me. I opened a good gap and made it to the finish."
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)