Joaquim Rodriguez did enough on Stage 16 of the Vuelta to don the leaders Red jersey with only five stages of the race remaining.
The peloton faced a leg-burning 185-km ride to Ermita del Alba and endured its ninth summit finish of the race and third in as many days.
With some seven categorised climbs on the agenda a break was inevitable.
A ten-man group took off early on and – with no real threat to the general classification in the mix – were allowed to open up a sizeable gap – a gap that reach 21 minutes at one point.
At the base of the final climb of the day Frank Schleck of the Trek Factory Racing team and his fellow survivor of the group Colombia rider Rodolfo Torres went clear.
With 1500 metres to the line Schleck attacked Torres, stomped the peddles and crossed the line for his first since the 2011 Criterium International.
Katusha’s Rodriguez meanwhile disposed Fabian Aru of the race lead by one second, but Wednesday’s time trial certainly favours Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin who lies fourth overall at just under two minutes.