1. Laurent Dufaux (Switzerland) Lotus 4.58.09 2. Daniele Nardello (Italy) Mapei 0.07 3. Andrea Peron (Italy) Motorola s.t. 4. Jose Maria Jimenez (Spain) Banesto 0.14 5. Roberto Pistore ((Italy) MG 0.43 6. Pascal Chanteur (France) Petit Casino 7. Tony Rominger (Switzerland) Mapei 8. Stefano Faustini (Italy) AKI 9. Marcos Serrano (Spain) Kelme 10. Alex Zuelle (Switzerland) ONCE 11. Davide Rebellin (Italy) Polti 12. Georg Tostching (Austria) Polti 13. Kai Hundertmark (Germany) Telekom 14. Mauro Gianetti (Switzerland) Polti 15. Bobby Julich (USA) Motorola 16. Fernando Escartin (Spain) Kelme 17. Javier Mauleon (Spain) Mapei 18. Axel Merckx (Belgium) Motorola 19. Daniel Clavero (Spain) MX onda 20. Peter Meinert (Denmark) Telekom all s.t. .. 48. Bo Hamburger (Den) 16.50 49. Claus Moller (Den) s.t. .. 54. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) 25:06 .. 60. Stephen Hodge (Aus) 27:19 .. 63. Lars Johnsen (Nor) 27:33 .. 78. Melchor Mauri (Spa) s.t. .. 107. William Chann McRae (USA) 32:43 .. 113. Kevin Livingston (USA) s.t. .. 119. Neil Stephens (Aus) 44:44
1. Alex Zuelle (Switzerland) ONCE 87.30.18 2. Laurent Dufaux (Switzerland) Lotus 4:22 3. Pistore 7:10 4. Tostching 8:34 5. Rominger 8:51 6. Faustini 9:09 7. Rebellin 9:42 8. Peron 12:25 9. Julich 12:47 10. Clavero 15:02 11. Escartin 15:20 12. Jimenez 15:21 13. Serrano 15:28 14. Gianetti 17:02 15. Nardello 20:30 16. Mauleon 22:36 17. Merckx 22:44 18. Meinert 23:05 19. Vladislav Bobrik (Russia) Gewiss 23:22 20. Laurent Jalabert (France) ONCE 25:33 .. 30. Melchor Mauri (Spa) 37.22 .. 42. Neil Stephens (Aus) 57:56 .. 52. Bo Hamburger (Den) 1.09.05 .. 54. Claus Moller (Den) 1.11:53 .. 72. Kevin Livingston (USA) 1.49:57 .. 78. Stephen Hodge (Aus) 2.01:24 .. 101. Lars Johnsen (Nor) 2.26:40 .. 110. William Chann McRae (USA) 2.35:06
The Swiss gained 55 seconds on his compatriot and replaced Frenchman Laurent Jalabert in second place overall after the 212 km leg from Getafe and Avila.
Dufaux stood four minutes 22 seconds behind Zuelle with three days left.
Zuelle seemed unaffected by a stomach upset that has hit his ONCE team but team mate Jalabert was clearly unable to cope with the searing pace and lost more than 20 minutes, sliding out of contention.
Dufaux's would have gained more ground but for the help given to Zuelle by riders in the chasing pack.
His Lotus team manager Miguel Moreno was angered by the support and described Tony Rominger and the rival Mapei team as mercenaries.
Rominger had been criticised earlier after allowing a gasping Zuelle to follow him up the hill at the end of Tuesday's 17th stage.
Dufaux complained at the lack of help he received from the four other riders in the group that broke away halfway through the stage.
``It was a fantastic stage, although at times I felt alone,'' said Dufaux, who showed his strength by sprinting up the final hill into Avila.
He promised to attack again in Friday's stage. It could be his last chance because Saturday's time trial is a Zuelle speciality and Sunday's largely-flat closing section traditionally ends in a sprint finish in Madrid.
Dufaux's compatriot Alex Zulle retained the overall leader's yellow jersey.
For Jalabert, cycling's world number one who won this Tour last year, it was a second successive catastrophe. He retired from July's Tour de France with gastric flu, though he had already effectively lost the Tour on a particularly tough seventh stage to Les Arcs.
Jalabert had been heavily criticised in the Spanish press for not obeying team instructions and helping Zulle retain his lead.
Zulle received help from an unexpected quarter during Thursday's arduous stage -- from compatriot Tony Rominger, a three-time winner of the Tour who is not a teammate of his.
Dufaux, who finished fourth in the Tour de France, raised his hands to his lips and blew a kiss as he crossed the line.
The Swiss cyclist, who remains over four minutes behind Zulle in the overall standings, had escaped from the peloton with Italians Daniele Nardello and Andrea Peron and Spanish rider Jose Maria Jimenez.