(CNN) -- Pre-race favorite Alejandro Valverde took the overall Vuelta Espana lead from Australian Cadel Evans, after finishing third to compatriot Gustavo Veloso in the mountainous 188.8km ninth stage from Alcoy to Xorret del Cati.
Valverde is the new Vuelta Espana leader after finishing third in Monday's mountainous ninth stage.
The 29-year-old Veloso attacked on the final climb to arrive 21 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Italy's Marco Manzano, with Valverde snatching eight bonus seconds after attacking his main rivals to come home third.
Valverde, who is looking to win his first major tour after twice finishing on the Vuelta podium, told reporters: "There was a lot of tension in the peloton and I decided to attack because some of the favorites were struggling."
The time bonus allowed Caisse d'Epargne rider Valverde to take the gold jersey off Evans, who held it for just one day, giving him a seven-second cushion, with Dutchman Robert Gesink 36 seconds behind in third position overall.
"I am very happy, and even more so because I might be able to ride into Murcia on Tuesday as leader," added Valverde, who was born in the south-eastern town.
The Vuelta continues on Tuesday with a 171.2-km ride between Alicante and Murcia which includes a second category climb a little over 11km from the finish.
Last year's top three finishers -- Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer and Carlos Sastre -- have stayed away from the three-week race that ends in Madrid on September 20.