Superhuman Juanjo Cobo threw a Spanish cat amongst the British pigeons on Sunday after brushing aside the fearsome Angliru climb as if it were a mere mound.
Geox's Cobo roared into the red jersey to complete a magnificent turnaround after he seemingly disappeared from cycling following the demise of his former team Saunier Duval back in 2009.
While Cobo, wearing those fetching black socks of his, juggernauted his way up the steep 20+ per cent sections of an infamous final climb that's invariably described as barbaric, ridiculous, pitiful, brutal etc. - British pair Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome pretty much hit the wall.
As soon as a TV motorcycle toppled over on the precipitous slopes, we all knew it was curtains for Friggins.
Prior to the TV bike rolling on its side, the world had been treated to images of both Britons hunched over their handlebars as they tried to pedalled sideways across an already narrow road made even more confined by the throngs of avid fans (whose combined vocabulary seemed not to expand beyond the word "venga").
As the TV pictures suddenly unfocused and took on an arresting angle looking up, sideways, from the tarmac, the last thing we saw was the red blur of Wiggins pedalling squares.
This was around 2km from the finish - and with no more images of the select chasing group available, Vuelta fans were forced to watch Cobo complete his superb solo win, unknowing of what dramas were unfolding behind.
With Froome finishing on the wheels of Denis Menchov and Wout Poels 48 seconds later, and a dejected Wiggo rolling home alongside Igor Anton another 30-odd seconds back, viewers such as Saddles had to play a game of dot-to-dot to fill in the gaps.
Presumably Froome decided to cut his losses, ditch team leader Wiggins and start riding for his own cause. That would have meant poor Bradley having to ride on his own, without Froome, for the first time in this year's Vuelta (except for the enforced separation required for the ITT).
"It's ours to lose," said Wiggins after Saturday's stage 14. But Cobo's second place then should have been a warning to the Sky pair: the Spaniard was clearly the danger man.
And yet neither Wiggins nor Froome responded when Cobo launched his decisive attack 6km from the finish - and the rest is history. Looking as serene as a dopey cat, Cobo was in a different league than anyone else on the mountain - and deservedly took the win, and with it the time bonus which propelled him into the red jersey.
No spring chicken, Cobo won a stage in the Vuelta back in 2009 but has since been stuck in some kind of wilderness following a fruitless year at Caisse d'Epargne. He's had a pretty uneventful first year at Geox, and entered the Vuelta seemingly behind both Carlos Sastre and Menchov in the GC pecking order. And yet, here is the 30-year-old Spaniard just six days away from winning the Vuelta.
Saddles wasn't sure what kind of headline to run with today - and for a long time was toying with 'The Littlest Cobo' before realising that Juan Jose has very little in common with a stray German Shephard who wanders from town to town, helping people in need.
Of course, the Vuelta is not over yet. And although there are no big summit finishes left, there are some tricky stages through the Basque Country which could shake things up.
Froome is 20 seconds down and must now be seen by Sky as their main man given Wiggins is third, 46 seconds adrift.
But if the rejuvenated Geox team leader does have a bad day on the bike, then Saddles will be primed with his "Cobo pops" headline.
- Sports & Recreation