MADRID (AFP) — Frederik Kessiakoff (Astana) won the 11th stage of the Vuelta a España Wednesday, a 39km individual time trial from Cambados to Pontevedra in Galicia.

Spaniard Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) held on to the overall leader’s red jersey, just ahead of countryman Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, who is back from a two-year drugs ban. “Purito” now lies one second ahead of Contador and 16 seconds in front of Chris Froome (Sky), the runner-up at this year’s Tour de France.

The 32-year-old Kessiakoff stamped his authority on the time trial with an impressive time of 52:32, beating Contador by 17 seconds and Froome by 39 seconds.

It is the Swede’s first stage win in a major tour, though he had fired a warning shot in the 2012 Tour of Switzerland by winning an individual time trial there.

Among the favorites, Contador gained the most ground in the time trial, seemingly at ease as he took advantage of the third-category climb of Monte Castrove. The Spanish climber clawed back 22 seconds on Froome, but could not reach Rodríguez.

“In the end, the important thing is the result,” Contador said. “I am very happy. It has been a good day. Now it is time to rest because the Vuelta is starting for us. Up to now they have been one-day races, but from now on they are high-mountain stages.”

Rodríguez, too, was content with his performance in the stage.

“I am very happy with my time,” Rodriguez said. “It is only logical I should lose time at the start when I am not really in my element, the mountains. Then, on the climb I felt good.”

On Thursday, the riders face a spectacular 190km coastal route through Galicia from Vilagarcia de Arousa to Mirador de Ezaro, a third-category mountain pass with inclines of over 13 percent.