Nicolas Roche and Daniel Martin continued their good form as Joaquim Rodriguez confirmed his status as Spain's top contender for the Tour of Spain, blasting off a fifth stage win by four seconds.
The Katusha rider claimed his team's second stage win in 24 hours and Spain's third victory in as many days ahead of Dutchman Wouter Poels. Rodriguez's team mate, Dani Moreno, finished third while France's Sylvain Chavanel retained the overall lead.
Nicolas Roche finished eighth today, seven seconds off the winner. Martin concluded in 30th position and is 24th overall, with Roche a spot behind.
Snatching a 20-second time bonus as well as his sixth win of the 2011 season after he rocketed away from a crumbling pack 500 metres from the line, Rodriguez told reporters his team's morale was stronger than ever.
"Two wins in a row for the squad and a stage win for me so early on is great news," Rodriguez said.
"I've always said I wanted to go for the overall and this confirms I'm in great shape.
"It's very early days yet, all of the favourites are still very close together, but a win like this shows I mean business to everybody."
Fourth in the Tour of Spain last year and fifth in this year's Giro d'Italia, the 32-year-old said: "This is the ideal start, but it's the third week that counts.
"Just look at last year, where everybody thought I had the race sewn up after the mountains but then I lost the lead in the final time trial.
"This late in the season, it's hard to tell what will happen from one day to the next."
Spain's other top contender, Igor Anton, had his second difficult stage in 24 hours.
The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider clung on to the back of the pack on the long but shallow second category ascent of Valdepenas just before the finish, but then lost 57 seconds to Rodriguez on the final ascent.
Moreno remains in second place overall, but is now just nine seconds back on the French national champion Chavanel, while Rodriguez has gained 10 places to move into third, 23 seconds back.
"I was badly placed at the foot of the climb but I knew I had some time in hand on Rodriguez so I wasn't too worried," Chavanel, 37th on the stage at 31 seconds, told reporters.
"My team mates really worked hard today, even (top Belgian sprinter) Tom Boonen, which shows they respect my lead and want to defend it.
"I'm pretty convinced I'll be able to hold on now until Monday and the time trial in Salamanca. If I can do that, I'll be satisfied."