Magnus Cort outsprints pre-stage favourites to win stage 18 at the Vuelta

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Magnus Cort Nielsen won a bunch sprint on the Vuelta despite being usually restrained to a domestique role at Orica-Bike Exchange. The 23-year-old Dane played in smart in the finale to finish ahead of Nikias Arndt (second) and Jempy Drucker (third). The top guns stayed quiet and Nairo Quintana retained the overall leader’s red jersey ahead of Friday’s individual time trial, which he will start with a comfortable lead over Chris Froome (Sky) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Bike Exchange).

They were 161 riders at the start of the stage in Requena. The breakaway of the day took shape early one, with four riders — Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac), Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek-Segafredo), Quentin Jauregui (ag2r-La Mondiale) and Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida) – jumping away from the peloton in the sixth kilometer. They were joined by Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Soudal).

The group had an advantage of almost five minutes after 32 kilometres while the pack was controlled by the Giant-Alpecin and Bora-Argon18 teams. Beppu was first at top of the only climb of the day, the second-catogy Puerto de Casa del Alto (km 69.8).

Midway through the stage, the gap stabilized around 6:30 and Etixx-Quiick Step, working for Gianni Meersman, took over at the front, with some help from Dimension Data and BMC. Vervaeke was first at the intermediate sprint in Ontinyent (km 147) as the gap melted. Cattaneo was dropped from the breakaway 33 kilometres from the line.

The fugitives were caught 11.3 km from the line. Jan Bakelants (ag2r-La Mondiale) went solo with 3.5 km remaining but he was quickly caught by the bunch.

Nielsen launched the sprint and held off Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) and Jempy Drucker, who won the previous bunch sprint in Peniscola on Monday.

Vuelta a Espana 2016 – stage 18 results (Requena – Gandía):

1 Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-BikeExchange)

4:54:31

2 Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin)

,,

3 Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC)

,,

4 Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff)

,,

5 Jonas Vangenechten (IAM)

,,

6 Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo)

,,

7 Michael Schwarzmann (Bora-Argon 18)

,,

8 Gianni Meersman (Etixx – Quick-Step)

,,

9 Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data)

,,

10 Lorenzo Manzin (FDJ)

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General classification after stage 18:

1 Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

74:30:03

2 Christopher Froome (Sky)

+03’37”

3 Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange)

+03’57”

4 Alberto Contador (Tinkoff)

+04’02”

5 Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange)

+06’03”

6 Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac)

+07’34”

7 Samuel Sanchez (BMC)

+08’12”

8 Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac)

+08’13”

9 Michele Scarponi (Astana)

+08’28”

10 David De La Cruz (Etixx – Quick-Step)

+08’52”

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