Annemiek van Vleuten extended her overall lead in the Giro Rosa with a flourishing solo victory in the penultimate - and gruelling - ninth stage of the race that finished at the summit of Monte Zoncolan.
The Dutchwoman, riding for Mitchelton-Scott, followed an attack from RSA's Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio before digging deep to push on alone with two kilometres left on the 104.7km stage from Tricesimo in this International Cycling Union Women's World Tour event.
The 35-year-old world time trial champion, who crashed out of the Rio 2016 road race while leading on a steep downhill, suffering severe concussion and three lumbar spinal fractures, is now ideally placed to take her first title in the women's version of the Giro d'Italia.
The tenth and final stage will follow a 120.3km route around Cividale del Fruili tomorrow.
It was the first time the race had visited the climb at Monte Zoncolan since 1997, and that year it approached from the easier side of Sutrio, as opposed to the 10km at 11.5 per cent the riders faced this year.
An early break away trio consisting of Italy's Silvia Valsecchi, riding for BePink, Sweden's Sara Penton of Team Virtu Cycling Women and Ukraine's Olena Pavlukhina of BTC City Ljubljana built up a lead approaching three minutes early on, but the escapees were caught before the riders arrived at the pivotal mountain.
With just over five kilometres left, Van Vleuten responded to an attack from South Africa's Moolman-Pasio - and the duo sped away from the reduced bunch before the Dutchwoman produced her final flourish.
Moolman-Pasio finished 40 seconds back and the battle for third was won by her team-mate Amanda Spratt of Australia - who had earned her own solo win on stage six - as she finished ahead of Eider Merino, riding for Movistar.
Spratt finished at 2min 54sec back from the winner, with Merino, of Spain, four seconds behind her.
Van Vleuten, who began the day with an overall lead of 2:32, has now extended it to 3:35 over Moolman-Pasio, with Spratt third in the general classification, 5:33 behind the leader.