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Vuelta a Espana: Chris Froome maintains lead before deciding stage

Vuelta a Espana: Chris Froome maintains lead before deciding stage

Thomas de Gendt won stage 19 in a sprint from a select group of nine ridersBritain's Chris Froome will take a 97-second lead over Italy's Vincenzo Nibali into the decisive 20th stage of the Vuelta a Espana.Saturday's 117.5km route, which ends with a gruelling 13.2km climb up the Alto de l'Angliru, precedes Sunday's processional stage to Madrid.Belgium's Thomas de Gendt won stage 19 in Gijon on Friday by reeling in Ivan Garcia Cortina of Spain.
Garcia faded to finish third, with Colombia's Jarlinson Pantano in second.
Relive stage 19
Stage-by-stage guide and results
Team Sky's Froome, 32, is aiming to become only the third man to win both the Tour de France and Vuelta in the same year, and first to win the double since the Spanish Grand Tour moved from April to August and September.Apart from shutting down a late attack by Spain's Alberto Contador, this stage was largely a stalemate between Froome and his rivals, with the peloton content to roll in 12 minutes 15 seconds behind De Gendt.The racing will not be so sedate on Saturday, but if four-time Tour de France champion Froome retains the red jersey at the end of the stage, he will win his first Vuelta title - convention dictating he will not be attacked on the final day."It was about trying to save as much energy as possible for Saturday and get through the day without many issues, so I'm happy to get the day behind us and focus on stage 20," said Froome."The Angliru is going to be rude, but it's an explosive and short stage, so we can expect fireworks from the start."There's some tough climbs before the Angliru, everybody is tired at this point of the race, but I feel good."A summit finish on the Angliru is among cycling's biggest challenges. Bradley Wiggins saw his bid for the Vuelta title scuppered there in 2011 when he lost significant time to stage winner Juan Jose Cobo, who held on for overall victory ahead of Froome - his first of three second places in this event.
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'The sprint of my life'
A group of 19 riders broke clear shortly after the start of the 149.7km route from Caso, Parque Natural de Redes and were soon joined by a nine-man chasing group.It was no surprise to see De Gendt there - the Lotto-Soudal rider having spent almost the entire Tour de France off the front in breaks, only to miss out on a stage win and, to his chagrin, the overall combativity award.With 35km to go, 21-year-old Garcia Cortina went solo, establishing a lead of one minute before he was joined by France's Romain Bardet over the summit of the final climb.Ireland's Nicolas Roche and Slovenia's Matej Mohoric joined the leading pair and looked set to contest the finish, only for a superb effort by Luxembourg's Bob Jungels to bring back a group of five chasers, including De Gendt.Garcia Cortina kicked first in the final 500 metres, looking to become Spain's first stage winner of this Vuelta in his home town of Gijon, but could not hold off De Gendt, who has now won a stage in all three Grand Tours."I've had a good season but now my career is almost complete," De Gendt told Eurosport."The Bahrain-Merida rider [Ivan Garcia Cortina] was really strong in the sprint but I was on the wheel and, when he launched, I went full and did the sprint of my life."
Stage 19 result
1. Thomas de Gendt (Bel/Lotto-Soudal) 3hrs 35mins 46secs2. Jarlinson Pantano (Col/Trek-Segafredo) Same time3. Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa/Bahrain-Merida)4. Rui Costa (Por/UAE Team Emirates)5. Floris de Tier (Bel/Team LottoNL-Jumbo)6. Bob Jungels (Lux/Quick-Step Floors)7. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R Ka Mondiale)8. Nicolas Roche (Ire/BMC Racing Team)9. Daniel Navarro (Spa/Cofidis)10. Koen Bouwman (Ned/Team LottoNL-Jumbo) +45secs
General classification
1. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 75hrs 51mins 51secs2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain-Merida) +1mins 37secs3. Wilco Kelderman (Ned/Team Sunweb) +2min 17secs4. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus/Katusha-Alpecin) +2mins 29secs5. Alberto Contador (Spa/Trek-Segafredo) +3mins 34secs6. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col/Astana Pro Team) +5mins 16secs7. Michael Woods (Can/Cannondale-Drapac) +6mins 33secs8. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana Pro Team) Same time9. Wout Poels (Ned/Team Sky) +6mins 47secs10. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo) +10min 26secs
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