A 'stupid' move by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) allowed Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to steal the stage win and overall lead in a hotly-contested mountainous third stage of the Vuelta a Espana.
I'm so pissed against myself that I don't really care. I can only think I lost a stage not because I was weaker, but because I was stupid.
Valverde, 32, crossed the finishing line in Eibar just centimetres ahead of fellow Spaniard Rodriguez after a 155km race from the vineyards of Faustino V in Oyon.
The third stage, which presented riders with four ascents including a category one climb to Arrate just ahead of the finish, began with a breakaway group that quickly grew to eight riders.
The early leaders, including Belgian Philippe Gilbert (BMC) who was only 10 seconds off the race lead, managed to put more than four minutes between themselves and the peloton at one point, with the temperature hitting 38 degrees Celsius.
But their lead was whittled down to just seconds some 10km from the finish, and then the fight began in earnest with the four top finishers battling it out for the lead, with Valverde initiating the action.
Contador attacked seven times in the final kilometres but could not compete with Valverde and Rodriguez.
Over confidence by Rodriguez in the final metres saw Valverde kick past him for the win.
I'm really angry," said Rodriguez. "I lost a stage I was virtually holding in my hands. I knew the profile of the stage, especially I knew in the end I had to stay ahead because of two difficult downhill corners. In fact I was perfect: but in the last five metres I stopped pedalling and Valverde passed me for a bunch of millimetres."
"I expected today the favourite riders to be at the same standard and I have very good feelings about my shape, but in this moment I'm so pissed against myself that I don't really care. I can only think I lost a stage not because I was weaker, but because I was stupid."
Valverde praised runner-up 'Purito' Rodriguez, saying he could easily have won the stage.
"Purito deserved to win as much as I did," he said. "He gave me a bit of a scare but at the end he got a bit confident and I passed him."
Valverde's win saw him snatch the red leader's jersey from compatriot and Movistar team-mate Jonathan Castroviejo.
"We are happy. We have kept the leadership, the person has changed but we have kept it in the team," Valverde said, before warning that there is a long way to go.
"Anything can happen on the first day in the mountains."
In the race's first real workout for the climbers, Briton Christopher Froome (Sky), runner-up in the Tour de France, took third place just ahead of Spaniard Alberto Contador (SaxoBank-Tinkoff Bank)
Contador. the 29-year-old two-time Tour de France winner, who was stripped of a third win in 2010, along with his Giro d'Italia title of 2011, faces severe competition here, not only from Froome but also from Dutchman Bauke Mollema, with Rabobank, and the new leader, Valverde.
Dutchman Pim Ligthart of Team Vacansoleil-DCM won the king of the mountains polka dot jersey as best climber of the stage after spending much of the race in the break.
Tomorrow the Vuelta's riders face a spectacular 160km fourth stage from Barakaldo in the Basque Country to Valdezcaray in Rijoa, near a popular ski resort.
Stage 3: 155.3km: Faustino V to Arrate (Eibar)
1 Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar 3hr 49min 37sec
2 Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) Katusha
3 Christopher Froome (GBR) Sky
4 Alberto Contador Velasco (ESP) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
5 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (ESP) Katusha 0:00:06
6 Bauke Mollema (NED) Rabobank
7 Eros Capecchi (ITA) Liquigas-Cannondale
8 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (ESP) Movistar
9 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp
10 Robert Gesink (NED) Rabobank
1 Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar 8hr 46min 56sec
2 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (ESP) Movistar 0:00:18
3 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (ESP) Katusha 0:00:19
4 Christopher Froome (GBR) Sky 0:00:20
5 Alberto Contador Velasco (ESP) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank 0:00:24
6 Bauke Mollema (NED) Rabobank 0:00:28
7 Robert Gesink (NED) Rabobank
8 Rigoberto Uran Uran (COL) Sky 0:00:30
9 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (ESP) Katusha 0:00:33
10 Igor Anton (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:46