Chris Froome extends his lead in Vuelta a España

Sander Armee wins stage 18 while Nicolas Roche finishes 41st to put him 17th overall

British cyclist Chris Froome celebrates retaining the red jersey on the podium of the 18th stage of the 72nd edition of Vuelta a España. Photograph: Jose Jordan/AFP/Getty Images

British cyclist Chris Froome celebrates retaining the red jersey on the podium of the 18th stage of the 72nd edition of Vuelta a España. Photograph: Jose Jordan/AFP/Getty Images

 

Race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) extended his lead over his closest rivals at the Vuelta a España on Thursday, finishing just behind Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) and ahead of several key competitors.

The trio were over 10 minutes behind the solo stage winner Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal), who was part of the day’s big breakaway group, but gained time on those closest to Froome. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) gave up between four and 21 seconds. Froome’s main challenger Nibali is now one minute 37 back with three days remaining.

Nicolas Roche finished 41st and is 17th overall.

Meanwhile, Ryan Mullen (Cannondale-Drapac) had a strong performance at the Tour of Britain, netting 11th on the stage five time trial. He was 25 seconds behind the winner Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo), with Dan Martin next best of the Irish in 45th. Mullen is now 11th overall.

Strong enough

At home, British rider Alice Barnes was best at the end of stage two of the An Post Rás na mBan, beating 27 others to the line in Castlecomer. She crashed seven kilometres from the end but was strong enough to chase back on before the sprint and then beat Frida Knutsson (Team Crescent DARE), Wlima Olausson (Backstedt Hotchillee) and the rest to the line.

“The corner felt really slippy,” she explained. “We weren’t actually going that fast. One rider went down and it was a case of, ‘you’ve not got enough room.’ I was third or fourth wheel. I crashed, stood up and slipped again and just had to wait to stop sliding. [Chasing and sprinting] was a tough one and I’m really happy to get the win.”

Wednesday’s stage one winner Belle de Gast (WV Breda) fell early on during the stage, hitting the deck at the foot of the first Wicklow 200 Queen of the Mountains climb, but finished eighth on the stage. She remains atop the leaderboard, two seconds ahead of Barnes.

Climbs

Overnight W200 Mountains leader Laura Massey finished second and third on key climbs and held on to that jersey, while Barnes’ win sees her head the NDC Points and the Women’s Cycling Ireland Young Rider categories.

Irish riders Eve McCrystal (Garda CC) and Lydia Boylan (Team WNT Pro Cycling) were seventh and ninth on the stage. Boylan is now eighth overall with McCrystal ninth.

The race continues tomorrow with a tough 112km stage to the summit finish on Mount Leinster.

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