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Lotto Soudal’s Sander Armee won Stage 18 of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana after finishing ahead of Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko at Suances in Spain on Thursday.
Armee’s stage win came on a day when Team Sky’s Chris Froome managed to maintain his lead atop the overall classification after withstanding several attacks within the peloton.
CyclingHub relayed the finishing times from the stage:
TOP 10 – Stage 18 #LV2017🇪🇸 https://t.co/mpJQclAq9n
The same source detailed the GC standings after 18 stages:
Top 20 GC after stage 18 #LV2017🇪🇸 https://t.co/u05gtU03sX
Earlier, Matej Mohoric made his move from what had been a 20-rider-strong break with 62 kilometres gone, pulling away from the rest of the break. However, Lutsenko soon drew Mohoric back into the escapees as the former edged ahead.
The break led the peloton by over 13 minutes as the riders tackled the Category 3 climb at Collada de Carmona. It was the first of four climbs for the day, one surmounted first by Movistar’s Jose Joaquin Rojas.
As the race entered the final 50 kilometres, the break’s lead was still a significant one, per Cyclingnews.com:
50km to go and the break now has nearly 13 minutes on the peloton. #LV2017 | https://t.co/xnozBmIE4U https://t.co/LTyljvm4X8
It was so healthy, the escapees began the climb to the summit at Collada de Ozalba just as the peloton were still finishing the stage’s first climb.
Jeremy Maison had been leading the break, but he began to tire at the start of the second climb. As he did, Armee made his move to try to escape. His move helped keep the break’s advantage at over 13 minutes.
Things were shaken up in the peloton when team Katusha-Alpecin made a move, per Eurosport’s Felix Lowe:
Felix Lowe @saddleblaze
Katusha on fire! Caption competition from this man in yellow… GO!
This encouraged more attacks from within the peloton, with Astana’s Fabio Aru among those making their moves on the GC group. However, Team Sky and overall leader Froome worked hard to keep Aru and Co. in sight.
It wasn’t until there was 35 kilometres left when the break’s lead started to be reduced. The break held a lead of just under nine-and-a-half minutes entering the final 33 kilometres.
Aru edged ahead of the peloton but couldn’t significantly cut the gap on the break. There was 28 kilometres left when Alberto Contador of Trek Factory Racing launched his attack as the riders hit the ascent at Collada de la Hoz.
Contador was still on the front of the peloton at the top of the climb, before a powerful surge from Froome dragged Team Sky back into the mix on the descent, as the race hit the final 20 kilometres.
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On the front, Quick-Step Floors’ Julian Alaphilippe, Armee, Lutsenko and Movistar’s Mauricio Soler were pacing the break. Aru was the only man credibly keeping up the chase on the break.
Armee, Lutsenko and Alaphilippe established a lead inside the final 10 kilometres as the final climb of the stage at Alto de Santo Toribio de Liebana got closer.
Lutsenko made his move on Alaphilippe with 4 kilometres to go. As he did, Armee also made his move as the leading pair dropped Alaphilippe at the top.
Lutsenko was on the back wheel of Armee, where he wanted to be, for the in-climb, but Armee surged ahead to leave his chaser trailing. The Belgian finished strong to shock Lutsenko.
JAIME REINA/Getty Images
Meanwhile, a late attack from Froome over the final kilometre reeled Aru back in and maintained the former’s place at the top of the standings.
Armee’s win was the story of the day, but credit also belonged to Team Sky, particularly Froome, who refused to let Aru and Contador threaten his lead at the top.