Bad weather delivers blow to Nicolas Roche and Esteban Chaves Vuelta hopes

Bardet continued his sterling work at the head of the race, but Froome was settled and content with his GC contenders within view.

Italian Quick-Step Floors rider Trentin completed the stage in a time of three hours, 34 minutes and 56 seconds, his team's fourth stage victory of the Vuelta, ahead of Movistar's Rojas and another Spaniard, Jaime Roson Garcia of Caja Rural.

The opening slopes of the nearly 16km trek to the finishing line at the Observatory were the hardest of the climb, and it quickly showed. "There was a lot of wind and it wasn't easy".

"Bahrain Merida's Nibali - who put in a stinging attack inside the final two kilometres - moved above Colombia's Estaban Chaves (Orica-Scott) into second place in the general classification, 1'16" down on Froome. Nibali was the first of the overall contenders to launch a serious dig and managed to get a decent looking gap with Kelderman, Bardet and Lopez giving chase. So despite some big names in the leading group, it seemed likely that no one would go on to win from the break. Escapee Antwan Tolhoek prepared himself for the long climb.

"I always knew today was going to be one of the hardest days".

Bardet and Yates led the stage with Dimension Data's Igor Anton and Aldemar Reyes of Manzana Postobon joining them, crossing the punishing summit together at Alto de Velefique. "To finish second, I couldn't ask for much more than that, other than stage victory, but when Lopez went he was extremely strong".

Froome appeared on the ropes, but he chased with the help of teammate Mikel Nieve.

The Brit is seeking to become only the third person to win the Tour-Vuelta double in the same year and the first since 1978. The climbing legs proved dangerous as the break stretched out 30 seconds more to 1.30 over the peloton at the top of the climb.

Poland's Kwiatkowski, the 2014 world road race champion, and Belarus' Vasil Kiryienka, the 2015 world time-trial champion, will also ride for the British team ahead of the Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway towards the end of September.

Chaves finished 17th on the stage, 2mins 05secs behind Lopez to fall 2:33 behind Froome overall.