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Chris Froome extended his lead in the Vuelta a Espana as Kazakh Alexey Lutsenko won Wednesday’s rolling fifth stage.
Froome crossed the line in 14th place in the wheel of long-time rival Alberto Contador some four and half minutes after Astana’s Lutsenko.
Three riders had started the day just two seconds behind Froome but all lost time.
Tejay van Garderen moved up to second at 10 seconds after coming in just eight seconds behind Froome while Colombian Esteban Chaves is third at 11sec after crossing the line alongside the British leader.
But Italian former winners Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru both lost time to now sit sixth and seventh respectively at 36sec and 49sec.
Spain’s David De La Cruz started the day second but dropped to fifth at 23sec.
British twins Adam and Simon Yates — winners of the young rider competition at the Tour de France these last two years — are eighth and ninth respectively at 50sec and 1min 09sec.
But despite winning a fourth Tour just over a month ago, Froome showed no signs of tiredness as his Sky team set the pace on the steep run-in to the finish, allowing him to gain time on many overall rivals.
“I think if you had said at the beginning of the stage this would be the situation at the finish, I would have definitely have signed to agree to that,” admitted Froome.
“Looking at the time gaps now, the general classification is definitely taking a bit more shape.”
“I’m really glad to have come through from the Tour in the shape that I hoped to be in for the start of the Vuelta.”
Eritrean Merhawi Kudus was second on the lumpy 175.7km stage from Benicassim to Ermita Santa Lucia, finishing 42sec behind Lutsenko with Spain’s Marc Soler third at 56sec.
Lutsenko, 24, had broken clear of a large 17-man breakaway group, that had built up a seven-minute lead at one stage, on the tough final ascent to Ermita Santa Lucia.