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Sky’s Chris Froome inched closer to his dream of adding the Vuelta a Espana to his Tour de France title, by maintaining his 1min 37sec lead over key rival Vincenzo Nibali in the 19th stage on Friday.
Belgium’s Thomas de Gendt won a bunch sprint ahead of Jarlinson Pantano and Ivan Garcia at the finish line in the Atlantic coastal town of Gijon, to join a small circle of riders to have clinched stage wins in all three Grand Tours.
The day’s racing, however, was lit up by a heroic escape bid from fading local superstar Alberto Contador.
The Spaniard launched his attack on the last climb and opened up a lead of over a minute, before being reeled in with 2km to race by a small group including France’s Romain Bardet and Irishman Nicolas Roche.
Froome, Nibali and Wilco Kelderman, third overall at 2min 17sec, came in together shortly after.
Briton Froome now goes into one final challenge on Saturday’s 117km penultimate stage, which features two difficult mountain passes and a dramatic summit finish.