Joaquim Rodriguez justified his status as favourite for stage five of the Vuelta a Espana with an impressive win at Valdepenas de Jaen.
The steep uphill drag to the finish - with gradients of 24% in places - was expected to suit the Katusha rider and so it proved after he was set up superbly by his team-mate Daniel Moreno, the winner of Tuesday's fourth stage.
Rodriguez sat on Moreno's wheel through the most severe section and he powered on alone with around 500 metres to go, always having enough in hand to hold off Wout Poels (Vacansoleil).
Four seconds separated them on the line, with Moreno staying on strongly to take third, just a second further behind, which saw him cut the gap in the overall standings between himself and leader Sylvain Chavanel (Quick-Step) to nine seconds.
Team Sky pair Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome were again well placed in the front group throughout the 187 kilometres stage from Sierra Nevada and they crossed the line in 20th and 22nd respectively, 20 seconds behind.
That left them in 20th and 21st on the GC, both 1:20 behind Chavanel.
Katusha efforts rewarded
The stage had seen an early eight-man breakaway from which Michael Albasini (HTC-Highroad) launched a solo attack near to the 100km-mark.
However Katusha were active on the front of the peloton throughout the day and with Liquigas and Chavanel's Quick-Step outfit also to the fore the escape never looked like sticking.
With the field back together on the final classified climb up to Alto de Valdepenas, with the summit just 8km from the finish, David Moncoutie (Cofidis) powered clear and he opened up a 35 seconds advantage cresting the top.
That held steady on the descent but on the run-in to the finish town it started to tumble. It was down to 16 seconds going under the flamme rouge and he was swallowed up on the steep slopes to the finish as Katusha took complete control.