Sir Bradley Wiggins moved up to third in the Volta a Catalunya after the Briton animated stage three with a searing attack in the last kilometre.
The peloton had only just reeled in the escapees Nicolas Edet and Jurgen Van Den Broeck and looked to be heading for a bunch finish at the Vallter 2000 ski resort when Wiggins rode off the front, showing an impressive turn of speed.
Only the Movistar pair Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde and Katusha's Joaquim Rodríguez could match Wiggins's burst, with Quintana sprinting clear of the elite group to win by six seconds.
Wiggins finished fourth and in the same time as Valverde and Rodríguez, who are first and second on general classification with the Team Sky leader 10 seconds off the pace.
The same riders are expected to be to the fore once again on Thursday's stage four – another summit finish – with its 11 mile final climb.
Wiggins's Sky team-mates will reflect on Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen semi -classic in Waregem, Belgium. The British team had both Matthew Hayman and Ian Stannard, so impressive in finishing sixth at Milan-San Remo on Sunday, in contention in a final group of nine with a kilometre to go.
Thomas Voeckler's courageous solo attack was dragged back on the line by the Italian Oscar Gatto, with Borut Bozic finishing second and the Australian Hayman third. The British national champion Stannard came home in ninth.
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