Nairo Quintana of Colombia won the third stage of the Volta a Catalunya and Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde took the overall lead on Wednesday in Setcases, Spain.
Quintana finished the 180-kilometre (112-mile) stage ending in a summit finish in the Pyrenees mountains in just over 5 hours, after neutralizing an attack by Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins on the final uphill push to the Vallter 2000 peak above the village of Setcases.
"This victory is a boost for my morale and confidence," Quintana said. "There was a strong headwind at the top of the climb and our strategy was waiting for that very last moment to attack. The attack by Wiggins took the speed up and it was really good for us to know the climb, since we knew that the hardest point came at the end of it."
Canadian Ryder Hesjedal finished 50th in the stage.
Wiggins was third in the overall classification at four seconds behind Valverde, with Joaquin Rodriguez in second.
Riders face a 217-kilometre (135-mile) leg from Llanars to a summit finish at Vall de Camprodon on Thursday.
"Tomorrow's stage is going to be a really, really hard one, more than today," Valverde said. "We'll be reaching heights over 2,000 metres above sea level again and the finish is steep, especially after a 217-kilometre stage."
The race ends in Barcelona on Sunday.