It is also just his second year on the WorldTour. But Knox's team Deceuninck-Quick Step went into stage 16 with a plan to go fully in for the 23-year-old, to improve his position on GC and go for a stage win. He now sits just one minute and 21 seconds behind Bahrain Merida's Hermann Pernsteiner.
Knox had almost the entire 'Wolfpack' working for him throughout the stage with Zdenek Stybar the first team mate sent up the road. Once that move was reined in, Rémi Cavagna and Knox broke free from the bunch until they were joined by a large chasing group on the opening kilometres of the Puerto de San Lorenzo climb.
Max Richeze and Philippe Gilbert also made that pursuing group and soon joined forces with forces with Cavagna, all three burying themselves for Knox to mantain the leaders' advantage over the peloton before the final 17.8km ascent. But the trio piled on more pressure well up the Alto de la Cubilla, reducing the lead group and ensuring a nine-minute buffer over the bunch.
Cavagna and Gilbert continued their work for Knox who followed an attack by Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) that forced a further selection with seven kilometres to the finish. But the youngster couldn't follow the Dane's next kick, preferring to tap out a controlled tempo to the summit finish, crossing the line fourth.
“It was a really successful day," Knox said. "The guys did an amazing job, they were always there, sacrificed for me and I am so grateful to them.
"I didn’t have the legs to win the stage, but I gave everything and 11th on the GC now is better than I could have imagined. Hopefully I can stay there after the two hard mountain stages coming up in this final week.”
Stage 17 takes place on Wednesday after a rest day. This stage is marked as flat in the guidebook and is the longest so far at this year's Vuelta at 219.6km from Aranda del Duero and Guadalajara.
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