ALCOSSEBRE, Spain (AP) Chris Froome increased his lead in the Spanish Vuelta during a fifth stage won by Alexey Lutsenko of Kazakhstan on Wednesday.
Froome started the day just two seconds ahead of a trio of riders and with most of this top rivals within a minute.
But after most of them struggled through a hilly stage and then toiled on the race’s first summit finish, Froome looks to be in command of a race that he has finished as runner-up on three occasions.
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”Looking at the time gaps now, the general classification is definitely taking a bit more shape,” Froome said. ”And if you think there’s just a 3 kilometer climb to the finish, I can definitely be happy.”
Lutsenko left behind Marco Haller at the start of the stage’s finally climb, a short but steep trudge up to the Ermita de Santa Lucia church and its views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Lutsenko finished the 175.7-kilometer (109.1-mile) ride from Benicassim to Alcossebre in 4 hours, 24 minutes. It was the first grand tour stage win for the 24-year-old Astana rider.
After a small group of breakaway riders trickled across the line, Froome stuck to the wheel of Alberto Contador as the two traded attacks along with Esteban Chaves.
Froome increased his two-second race lead over Tejay van Garderen to 10 seconds. Nicolas Roche, David de la Cruz, Fabio Aru, Vincenzo Nibali and Romain Bardet all lost even more time to the four-time Tour de France winner.
Chaves is third overall, 11 seconds back. Nibali is now 36 seconds behind in sixth place, while Aru trails by 49 in seventh, and Bardet is 12th at 1:37. Contador remained over three minutes behind.
”I’m surprised to see Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru lose some time today – and Romain Bardet, but it’s a long race,” Froome said.
The route took riders over four category-two climbs and a category-three, before a push up the final category-three ascent.
Thursday’s sixth stage is a 204.4-kilometer (127-mile) run from Vila-real to Sagunt including four category-three and one category-two climbs.