Vuelta: Stage 18

On a stage with two races within the one, Sander Armée was the best of the breakaways on stage 18 whilst in the GC battle, Froome continued to increase his lead

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Vuelta: Stage 18

Sander Armée climbed to victory on Stage 18 of the Vuelta a España as Chris Froome extended his overall lead.

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Armée (Lotto Soudal) was part of a 20-man escape that built up a big lead and with the stage win on offer, he launched a solo attack with 700m left of the final climb to the summit finish at Santo Toribio de Liébana and pulled away to to win by 31 seconds from runner-up Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team) and 46 seconds from third-placed Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain Merida).

Back in the GC group, Chris Froome accelerated out of a heavily reduced peloton inside the final 1km and crossed the line four seconds ahead of Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) and Ilnur Zakarin (Team Katusha-Alpecin), and 21 seconds ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida).

The result means Froome’s lead stretches to 1’37” over second-placed Nibali and 2’17” over third-placed Kelderman. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) was once again the most aggressive rider of the day. Having already attacked four times on the climbs leading up to the summit finish, he followed Froome’s move in the final 1km and crossed the finish line just ahead of the Briton.

The Spaniard stays fifth but his deficit to the final place on the podium is down to 1’17” and his gap over sixth-placed Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) is up to 1’42”.

The Vuelta continues on Friday with a rolling, 149.7km 19th stage from Caso to Gijon.


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Chris Froome (Team Sky) “Today worked out perfectly in my favour. It was a really tough stage. A lot of GC guys tried to attack on the penultimate climb, so when we got onto that final climb the team did a really strong pace at the bottom, and I think certainly some guys paid for their efforts yesterday.

“Fabio [Aru] is one of the GC guys, but he’s still over five minutes on the general classification. For us he’s not really a big threat for the overall title, so I think it’s more of a fight for the top-five places on the podium, with regards to Aru.

“I mean that feels great [to gain time on Nibali]. That feels great especially after a difficult day yesterday. It’s good to bounce back again, and as I said yesterday, the morale is still good and the team is still strong. We’re just looking forward to getting though these next couple days now.”
Read Velon’s Stage 18 report: Armée wins from break as Froome drops Nibali

Sander Armée (Lotto Soudal) “It’s fantastic. It’s the best place to be in a race. This is already my eighth year as a pro rider, so I had to wait quite a long time to win a race. I was a couple of times close, and I did my work for the team, but in this Vuelta I got a chance to put myself in a free role and do my own race”.

“This was the third time I am in a breakaway, and I felt really good. I felt better and better during the stage, and then in the end I knew I would be close and I went full gas to the finish line.”

Alberto Contador: “We knew it would be a difficult day to gain time,” explained Contador. “The race started, and I wanted to make moves, and then the race restarted on the Collada de la Hoz, and the moves were pretty predictable.”

“I got involved because I thought there were riders having a bad day, but it was difficult to gain time on a stage like today. The main thing is that some rivals were dropped on the Collada de la Hoz, which isn’t a very difficult climb, so that is significant in view of the l’Angliru on Saturday.”

While Contador’s attacks were controlled on the Collada de la Hoz, the penultimate climb of the 169-kilometer stage, and his principal opponents limited their losses on the final short uphill blast, the next two days’ agenda has already been written. El Pistolero, definitely finding his legs in the third week, will end the last race of his career with all guns firing.

“The differences [in time] really don’t make a difference today. I think the conclusion that has to be drawn that I have in my head is that the legs work, and that’s the most important thing. Now I have to recover thinking about Saturday. The l’Angliru is a very difficult climb, and I hope that I have legs,” he concluded.

Fabio Aru: “I had good sensations today so, after the forcing of the Katusha guys, together with my team mate Sanchez, we tried to attack: unfortunately, I didn’t earned many seconds but I think today’s action is very important for the moral and I’m fully focused on the last three days of race” concluded the Italian Champion.

Wilco Kelderman: “Today was a difficult day,” explained Wilco after the stage. “I stayed together with the team through the day and when the race was heading towards the final climb Søren brought me into perfect position. On the climb I stayed with the best GC guys and didn’t lose any time. I felt good today and I’m pleased with the result.”
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Stage 18
1. Sander Armée Lotto Soudal
2. Alexey Lutsenko Astana Pro Team 0:31
3. Giovanni Visconti Bahrain Merida 0:46
4. Alexis Gougeard AG2R La Mondiale 1:02
5. José Rojas Movistar Team 1:06
6. Alessandro De Marchi BMC Racing Team 1:19
7. Matteo Trentin Quick-Step Floors 1:21
8. Sergio Pardilla Caja Rural – Seguros RGA
9. Antwan Tolhoek Team LottoNL-Jumbo 1:38
10. Anthony Roux FDJ 1:42

20. Fabio Aru Astana Pro Team 9:56
21. Alberto Contador Trek – Segafredo 10:08
22. Michael Woods Cannondale-Drapac
23. Chris Froome Team Sky
24. Wilco Kelderman Team Sunweb 10:12
25. Ilnur Zakarin Team Katusha – Alpecin
26. Wout Poels Team Sky 10:15
27. Steven Kruijswijk Team LottoNL-Jumbo 10:21
28. Vincenzo Nibali Bahrain Merida 10:29
29. David de la Cruz Quick-Step Floors
30. Louis Meintjes UAE Team Emirates 10:37
31. Miguel López Astana Pro Team 10:45
34. Tejay van Garderen BMC Racing Team 10:54
39. Esteban Chaves ORICA-Scott 11:19
41. Nicolas Roche BMC Racing Team 11:39
50. Romain Bardet AG2R La Mondiale 12:46

1. Chris Froome Team Sky
2. Vincenzo Nibali Bahrain Merida 1:37
3. Wilco Kelderman Team Sunweb 2:17
4. Ilnur Zakarin Team Katusha – Alpecin 2:29
5. Alberto Contador Trek – Segafredo 3:34
6. Miguel López Astana Pro Team 5:16
7. Michael Woods Cannondale-Drapac 6:33
8. Fabio Aru Astana Pro Team
9. Wout Poels Team Sky 6:47
10. Steven Kruijswijk Team LottoNL-Jumbo 10:26
11. David de la Cruz Quick-Step Floors 10:31
12. Esteban Chaves ORICA-Scott 11:57
13. Tejay van Garderen BMC Racing Team 12:06
14. Louis Meintjes UAE Team Emirates 13:32
15. Sergio Pardilla Caja Rural – Seguros RGA 15:41
16. Mikel Nieve Team Sky 25:14
17. Nicolas Roche BMC Racing Team 27:09
18. Daniel Moreno Movistar Team 32:21
19. Romain Bardet AG2R La Mondiale 42:10
20. Darwin Atapuma UAE Team Emirates 44:45



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