Quintana stays clear as Cort claims breakthrough win

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Nairo Quintana was able to comfortably retain his healthy lead in the Vuelta a Espana as Magnus Cort claimed a landmark victory on stage 18.

Significant changes to the general classification standings were not anticipated on Thursday given the relatively flat nature of the 200.6 kilometre route from Requena to Gandia, which featured just one category two climb.

Quintana and his nearest rivals - Chris Froome, Esteban Chaves and Alberto Contador - duly recorded the same time by finishing in the peloton, keeping the Movistar rider three minutes and 37 seconds clear in the red jersey.

More challenging tests await Quintana over the next two days - in the form of an individual time trial and mountainous penultimate stage - before the race concludes in Madrid on Sunday.

ORICA-BikeExchange rider Cort prevailed in a bunch sprint to claim a stage win in his first Grand Tour.

After producing a powerful finish to pip Nikias Arndt (Giant - Alpecin) and Jempy Drucker (BMC Racing), the 23-year-old Dane told TVE: "It's a really big dream come true, fantastic."

A five-man breakaway group comprising Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek - Segafredo), Quentin Jauregui (AG2R La Mondiale), Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Soudal), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) and Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre - Merida) led for much of the day.

However, Cattaneo was swallowed up by the peloton with around 30km to go and the remaining front-runners were also caught as the finish line drew near.

A late attack from AG2R La Mondiale's Jan Bakelants then proved in vain, before Cort proved the strongest over the closing metres.