Relatively unknown Russian rider Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse D?Epargne) outshone the favourites with a spectacular but well-deserved win in the Tour of Spain?s first major mountain stage.

The Russian 26-year-old infiltrated a 35 man break of the day and then took off 10 kilometres from the mist-enshrouded summit finish of the Lagos de Covadonga.

Efimkin had an advantage of 1-06 over second-placed Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) at the finish. The pintsized Italian climber led home a group containing two strong favourites for the final overal, 2005 winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Spaniard Carlos Sastre (CSC), as well as Belgian outsider Stijn Devolder (Discovery) and another Belgian, Maxine Monfort (Cofidis).

Best of the rest was Australian Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), a further 22 seconds adrift, with Efimkin?s team-mate Oscar Pereiro (Caisse D?Epargne) finishing in 14th place, 29 seconds down on Evans.

Amongst the group of top favourites, Menchov and and Sastre had made most of the running. Sastre delivered two powerful attacks eight kilometres from the summit that whittled down the favourities to a bare half dozen, and another by Menchov saw Evans suffer.

None of the gaps though, amongst the favourites at least, are definitive, with Efimkin now 1-06 ahead of Menchov and Sastre overall.

?I had virtually no time references, but I was looking ahead, not back.? Efimkin said.

?Once I?d got in the group of 35, I knew I had a chance. And then on Covadonga itself, I just continued at my own rhythm.?

The fleeting leader in the Tour of Switzerland this summer, Efimkin said he wanted to ?keep the Vuelta?s gold jersey at least until Saturday?s time trial.? – in Zaragoza. ?After that, we?ll see. I?m in better condition than I was in June, so I?ve got a chance.?

Formerly with Barloworld alongside his twin brother Alexandre – Efimkin used his winner?s press conference to plead for a pro contract in 2008 for his sibling, saying ?he trains and races a lot harder than me.? – up until Tuesday, the Russian climber had the overall victory in the Tour of Portugal in 2005 as the most important win of his palmares.

Wednesday?s 157.4 kilometre stage through the mountains of Cantabria and Asturias has no single climb as difficult as the Lagos de Covadonga.

But with three second category climbs and a long, steady first category ascent of the Puerto de Palombera before the finish in Reinosa, it is more than appropriate for ambushes. After Tuesday?s surprise move by Efimkin, nobody will want to be caught napping again.

Tour of Spain stage four Langreo – Lagos de Covadonga
1 Vladimir Efimkin (Russia) Caisse D’Epargne 4-39-56
2 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir at 1-06
3 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
5 Maxine Monfort (Bel) Cofidis
6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC all st
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto at 1-28
8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis at 1-33
9 Ezequiel Mozquera (Spa) Karpin-Galicia at 1-36
10 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Liquigas at 1-49
133 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas at 18-13

Tour of Spain overall after four stages
1 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse D’Epargne 16-02-50
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 1-06
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC
4 Maxine Monfort (Bel) Cofidis
5 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery
6 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir all st
7 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) at 1-28
8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis at 1-33
9 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Karpin-Galicia at 1-36
10 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Liquigas at 1-49
162 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas at 26-29

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