LA FARRAPOSA, Spain (AP) Alberto Contador consolidated his overall race lead in the Spanish Vuelta by powering forward on the final ascent and winning the 16th stage on Monday.
The Tinkoff-Saxo rider charged past Christopher Froome with less than a kilometer to go on the mountainous 160.5-kilometer (99.7-mile) ride from San Martin del Rey Aurelio to La Farrapona to finish in 4 hours, 53 minutes, 35 seconds.
Froome finished second, 15 seconds behind, ahead of Alessandro di Marchi, who was 50 seconds behind.
''It was a good day, I was able to distance myself from all the riders,'' Contador said. ''Froome seems to be getting better and he set an incredible rhythm but my strength was good and I was able to keep pace with him, then when I saw my chance I took it.''
Alejandro Valverde lagged on the final ascent and finished fourth, 55 seconds behind, clinging on to third place overall by three seconds.
''It's complicated when Froome changes rhythm but I followed him and then I looked behind and saw that Joaquin (Rodriguez) and Valverde had lagged behind so I knew it was an important moment for me,'' said Contador.
The stage was marred by a fight between Gianluca Brambilla and Ivan Rovni, who threw punches at each other while riding and were both ejected from the race.
Brambilla seemed to get annoyed when Rovni changed pace during a break. Rovni reached out and touched Brambilla, who lashed out and the two then exchanged blows as Brambilla's Omega Pharma-Quick-Step teammate Wouter Poels dropped back looking astonished.
Race organizers then informed both riders they had to withdraw.
As the remaining riders reached the fourth and final category-one ascent, Froome upped the pace with Contador on his tail, leaving Valverde and Rodriguez lagging.
Tuesday is a rest day, and the 17th stage on Wednesday will be a largely flat 190.7-kilometer (118.5-mile) ride from Ortigueira to A Coruna.