Dutchman Tom Dumoulin took a step closer to winning his first Grand Tour title by holding on to his slim overall lead in the Vuelta following Stage 18.
Having claimed the leader’s red jersey on Wednesday with a stunning time trial display, Dumoulin felt the pressure by his main title threat Fabio Aru over the hilly 204-kilometre ride to Riaza.
Aru attacked Dumoulin no fewer that six times on the final climb of the day in an attempt to drop his rival.
But 24-year-old Dumoulin of the Giant-Alpecin team was having none of it and matched the Italian on each occasion.
Out in front Nicolas Roche of Team Sky and Haimar Zubeldia of Trek Factory Racing made a break for it.
The pair reached the finishing straight with no other stage contenders in sight.
Roche however had more power in the legs and enjoyed his first individual success since moving to Team Sky last winter and his second ever Vuelta stage win.
Dumoulin meanwhile crossed over with Aru and kept his slender three second overall race lead with three stages left