Chris Froome was buoyant after adding 21 seconds to his advantage at the summit of the Vuelta a Espana general classification.
The Team Sky rider took another big step towards a Grand Tour double on Thursday's stage 18, having already won the Tour de France this year.
He finished the 169-kilometre route from Suances to Santo Toribio de Liebana with an uphill surge to increase his lead over Vincenzo Nibali to one minute and 37 seconds, with Lotto-Soudal's Sander Armee crossing the line first.
"We saw a lot of people expend a lot of energy there, there were attacks on the penultimate climbs from everyone, all the main GC guys," said the Briton.
"It was only [Fabio] Aru who slipped away, he's not a threat for us, he's over five or six minutes away on general classification.
"Once we got into the final and got into the last climb our guys set a really high tempo at the bottom and I was feeling a lot better so it was great to gain a little bit of time that I lost [on stage 17].
"I think certainly some guys paid for their efforts [on stage 17] and also for their attacks earlier on.
"The morale is good and the team is still strong and looking forward to getting through these last couple of days."