Froome closing on Vuelta victory as Armee takes stage 18
Sander Armee took the honours on stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana as Chris Froome increased his lead to one minute and 37 seconds.
Having lost time on Wednesday, Froome accelerated on the final climb to pull away from nearest rival Vincenzo Nibali, while Armee (Lotto-Soudal) raced clear inside the last 500 metres to finish 31 seconds ahead of Astana's Alexey Lutsenko.
Nibali's Bahrain-Merida team-mate Giovanni Visconti completed the podium on Thursday.
The stage was tackled at a remarkable pace as the general classification contenders sought to stave off the threat of a breakaway that had every chance of succeeding.
But the well-oiled Team Sky machine kept its cool, with Gianni Moscon and Wout Poels affording Froome an excellent lead out.
It was down to the Tour de France champion to get the job done in the closing stages and he did just that, edging himself closer to glory.
GOOD DAY/BAD DAY
Finishing the 169-kilometre route from Suances to Santo Toribio de Liebana with a sharp climb meant nothing was certain until the riders had crossed the line.
And that meant Froome was able to turn it into yet another good day in the saddle, the Briton summoning the energy to make a dart for the finish that increased his advantage in the GC.
On the flip side, Fabio Aru's bold break for the stage win proved in vain as the Astana rider ended up almost 10 minutes behind Armee.
1. Sander Armee (Lotto-Soudal) 4:09:39
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) +00:31
3. Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida) +00:46
4. Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), +01:02
5. Jose Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) +01:06
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 72:03:50
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) +01:37
3. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +02:17
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 137 pts
2. Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) 121 pts
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) 118 pts
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
1. Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac) 54 pts
2. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) 47 pts
3. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) 38 pts
The riders head to Gijon on Friday on a 149.7km journey that includes the 7km climb up the Alto de la Colladona, which features an average gradient of 6.8 per cent.