Chris Froome rode an animate but ultimately fruitless stage eight of the Vuelta, as a counter attack by Alberto Contador in the final two kilometres left him exposed.
On the final climb of the day, Froome attacked the a select group including Contador, Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde with two kilometres to go. However, Contador launched a counter that was unable to be met by any immediate response.
Rodriguez and Valverde left Froome to chase Contador's move, before launching their own salvo, bridging the gap and passing Contador on the line, with Valverde the stage winner.
The main prize was not Valverde's stage, but the fight for supremacy in the general classification as behind, Froome crossed the line 14 seconds in arrears.
That left the overall standings delicately balanced with four days remaining before the individual time trial which is expected to define the race.
General Classification standings after Stage 8:
1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 29:59:35
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:33
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank 0:00:40
4 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:50
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:41
6 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:01:48
7 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:14
8 Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:02:47
9 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:58
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:03:07