Home rider Alejandro Valverde won the eighth stage of the Vuelta a Espana, while compatriot Joaquim Rodriguez kept the overall lead.

In a three-man battle to the summit finish, Rodriguez came second in the 174.7km stage from Lleida. Another Spaniard, Alberto Contador, was third, while Chris Froome finished fourth.

Ireland's Nicolas Roche finished in 12th place, 1:02 behind the winner. That leaves him in seventh place overall, 2.14 behind leader Rodriquez. The latter now has a 33 second lead over Team Sky's Chris Froome. 

The British Olympian attacked several times as he sought to claw back the deficit to Rodriguez, but dropped back at the end of the steep climb to the finish on the Collada de la Gallina.

That left Valverde to burst for the line ahead of Rodriguez and Alberto Contador - who also lies third in the overall standings, 40 seconds off the lead and now only seven behind Froome.

Valverde is a further 10 seconds back after adding to his win on stage three to Eibar and also holds the polka dot jersey for the leading climber, while John Degenkolb of Team Argos-Shimano leads the points standings and Robert Gesink's Rabobank outfit lead the team standings.