Alberto Contador gave another indication of his superb form by producing a devastating performance to win solo on stage one of the Tour of Basque Country.
The 31-year-old Spaniard surged clear of compatriot Alejandro Valverde – himself in excellent form – on the final climb of the day and then safely negotiated the 6.7km descent to the finish line to win by 14 seconds.
Valverde had to be content with second place, while Michal Kwiatkowski followed another 20 seconds further back in third after leading a chasing group of six riders down the descent.
Contador’s peerless display continued what has so far been an outstanding season for the resurgent Tinkoff-Saxo rider, who won Tirreno-Adriatico in impressive style and finished runner-up at both the Volta ao Algarve and Volta a Catalunya.
With no bonus seconds on offer at the race, the margin of his win on the day is also his lead in the general classification, which puts him in pole position to claim overall victory on Saturday.
The opening stage of the race took the riders over no fewer than eight climbs on a 155.8km route starting and finishing in Ordizia.
The most testing of the ascents was the Alto de Gaintza, which has a maximum gradient of 16 per cent and was tackled twice, with the second visit coming inside the last 10km.
The first climb of the Gaintza, which arrived mid-stage, thinned down the peloton significantly, meaning only about 50 riders were still at the head of the race when they returned to take it on for the second time.
Valverde (Movistar) accelerated on the lower slopes, 8.3km from the finish, and when only Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) was able to follow, it looked like the duo would work together on the rest of the climb and subsequent descent, before sprinting for the line.
But Contador had other ideas and attacked 1km later with a searing injection of pace that even Valverde, one of the punchiest climbers in the sport, had simply no answer to.
Contador was 15 seconds ahead of Valverde by the summit and surrendered only one of those on a breakneck descent back into Ordizia.
Britain's Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) finished 19th, 58 seconds down on Contador, in a group containing big names such as Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC).
Stage one result and general classification
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, 4:05:07
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +14secs
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, +34
4 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Katusha, +36
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Merida, same time
6 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
7 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky, st
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, st
9 Roman Kreuziger (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, +54
10 Mikel Landa (Spa) Astana, st