Verbania - Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert of the BMC team won his second stage on the Giro d'Italia this year as he triumphed in Thursday's 18th stage after a late breakaway.
Spaniard Alberto Contador of Tinkoff retains the leader's pink jersey three days from the race finish in Milan.
Gilbert, the 2012 world champion came home alone 47secs ahead of Italian Francesco Bongiorno, after a small group marshalled by the Belgian and Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel set up the break for home.
"For this Giro, I came to win a stage and try to wear the pink jersey. The first objective has been attained and a second victory is fantastic especially as it came in such a hard stage," said Gilbert.
"For me, this is a first at this level and to have Adam Moinard up front with me really helped. I knew with that when I was 40 to 50secs back at the top of the climb, it was possible. I took some risks but it paid off in the end," added Gilbert.
The 32-year-old adds his second stage win on this year's Giro after winning last week at Monte Berico for his third career triumph in the race.
Contador also had a successful day when he attacked on the final difficult climb at Monte Ologno 45km from the finish.
Second-placed Mikel Landa of Spain lost valuable time and also suffered a crash which did little to help his cause while Contador was in a similar position two days earlier.
Contador said that his decision not to wait for Landa who lost a few minutes had little to do on past history between the two rivals when Landa's Astana team failed to wait for him at Mortirolo.
"There's no vendetta," said Contador. "This situation was different and we knew we had to be in front at the foot of the mountain. There was no room for two riders at the front.
"I saw that Fabio Aru (3rd overall) was not having a good day when I looked at his face so I decided to attack," added the Spaniard.
Contador protected his advantage with the help of Canadian former winner Ryder Hesjedal and teammate Davide Villella as he extended his overall lead over Landa to 5min 15secs.
Aru now trails by 6min 5secs.
"My goal is to have the pink jersey in Milan even with a one second advantage," continued Contador.
"Today was a good stage but things can change tomorrow."
Gilbert meanwhile made his move on the final descent following the category one climb and went clear at the front with 19km to run.
Friday's 19th stage will see a gruelling 236km slog from Gravellona Toce and features three difficult climbs.
1. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC) 4hr 04min 14sec, 2. Francesco Bongiorno (ITA/BAR) at 47sec, 3. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/IAM) 1:01, 4. Matteo Busato (ITA/SOU) 1:01, 5. Amael Moinard (FRA/BMC) 1:01, 6. David de la Cruz (ESP/ETI) 1:01, 7. Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA/ALM) 1:01, 8. Kanstantsin Siutsou (BLR/SKY) 1:01, 9. Chad Haga (USA/GIA) 2:42, 10. Pieter Weening (NED/ORI) 3:55, 11. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN/CAN) 6:05, 12. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 6:05
14. Alexandre Geniez (FRA/FDJ) 7:18, 23. Mikel Landa (ESP/AST) 7:18, 24. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 7:18
1. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 72hr 23min 09sec,
2. Mikel Landa (ESP/AST) at 5:15, 3. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 6:05, 4. Andrey Amador (CRC/MOV) 7:01,
5. Yury Trofimov (RUS/KAT) 9:40, 6. Leopold Knig (CZE/SKY) 10:44, 7. Damiano Caruso (ITA/BMC) 11:05, 8. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/LNL) 12:53, 9. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN/CAN) 13:01, 10. Alexandre Geniez (FRA/FDJ) 14:01, 11. Maxime Monfort (BEL/LOT) 15:17, 12. Jrgen Van den Broeck (BEL/LOT) 17:12, 13. Amal Moinard (FRA/BMC) 21:15, 14. Giovanni Visconti (ITA/MOV) 21:25, 15. Tanel Kangert (EST/AST) 28:11, 16. Rigoberto Uran (COL/ETI) 30:52, 17. Darwin Atapuma (COL/BMC) 33:24, 18. Carlos Betancur (COL/ALM) 41:13, 19. Mikel Nieve (ESP/SKY) 42:22, 20. Paolo Tiralongo (ITA/AST) 46:40