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Chris Froome claimed his second stage win of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana to extend his overall race lead on Vincenzo Nibali to 1min 58sec with victory in the individual time trial on Tuesday.
Froome beat out Wilco Kelderman and Nibali in a time of exactly 47 minutes for the 40.2km 16th stage from the Navarra motor racing circuit to Logrono.
“It’s an absolutely amazing feeling to extend my lead now and to be in this position,” said Froome.
“It’s a great position to be in now, it’s a good buffer, but the race isn’t over.”
The Briton, who is aiming to become only the third rider in history to win the Tour de France and Vuelta in the same year, now has just four competitive stages to defend his lead before Sunday’s traditional parade around Madrid.
However, Nibali’s impressive showing in finishing 57 seconds behind Froome on the day maintained his hopes of a second Vuelta win with a series of strenuous climbs, including Saturday’s queen stage up the Alto de L’Angliru, still to come.
Kelderman’s second place, just 29 seconds back on Froome, moved the Dutchman 27 seconds ahead of Russia’s Ilnur Zakarin into third overall.
Zakarin was fourth with Alberto Contador moving up to fifth in the general classification in his final race before retirement with fifth on the stage.
“I’ve had a good time trial and the most important thing is I think I have good legs for what remains of the Vuelta,” said Contador.
“Although the podium is a long way off, we’ll keep trying day-by-day to see if we can achieve it.”
Froome started slowly on the tarmac of the motor racing circuit more used to hosting events on four wheels than two as the Sky rider was 23 seconds down on Kelderman at the first check point after 13 kilometers.
Yet, the four-time Tour de France champion surged through the second sector to lead by seven seconds by the second check point and continued to extend his lead all the way to the finish line as Kelderman faltered.
“I was just riding it at the speed I felt best,” added Froome.
“I wasn’t really getting that many time checks from the car so I didn’t really know where I was.”
“Actually I presumed it wasn’t good news if I wasn’t getting the time checks, so I was a bit worried halfway through.
“Only coming into the last six or seven kilometres I found out that I was on track to fight for the stage.”
“(It was a) really big relief and obviously super, super happy to be in this situation.”
Wednesday’s 16th stage sees the race return to the mountains with a steep hors category climb to the finish of the 180.5km ride from Villadiego to Los Machucos.
“Tomorrow is going to be brutal,” added Froome.
“Los Machucos from what I can see is a wall and a big, big GC battle for sure.”