Chris Froome. Picture: REUTERS
Chris Froome. Picture: REUTERS

Santo Toribio de Liebana — Chris Froome extended his Vuelta a Espana lead over Vincenzo Nibali to 1min 37sec on Thursday as Belgium’s Sander Armee claimed the 18th stage.

Armee edged out Alexey Lutsenko and Giovanni Visconti in a time of 4hr 9min 39sec for the 169km ride from Suances to Santo Toribio de Liebana as the general classification favourites allowed an early 20-strong breakaway group to fight for the stage win.

Over 10min back on Armee, Froome staved off a series of attacks in the chasing group with the help of his Sky teammates before accelerating himself in the final 600m to leave Nibali trailing.

, and the first since the Vuelta was moved to after the Tour in the cycling calendar back in 1995.

The four-time Tour winner had lost 42sec to Nibali on Wednesday as he paid for his efforts in winning the individual time trial a day earlier.

However, Froome made amends as only Alberto Contador and Michael Woods could stay with his attack on a category three climb to the finish.

In his final race before retirement, Contador remains fifth overall, but edged 4sec closer to a place on the podium, 1min 17sec behind Wilco Kelderman.

Fabio Aru, the 2015 Vuelta champion, gained 12sec on the Froome group to move up to eighth overall.

Another undulating route awaits in Friday’s 149.7km 19th stage from Caso to Gijon.

• Dutch rider Lars Boom took the overall lead in the Tour of Britain after winning Thursday’s stage five time trial.

The Lotto NL-Jumbo rider, who won the race in 2011, timed 19min 2sec around the 16km route in the coastal town of Clacton-on-Sea.

Teammate Victor Campenaerts of Belgium was second, 6sec slower.


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