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France’s Julian Alaphilippe claimed an explosive eighth stage of the Vuelta a Espana as Chris Froome left his rivals behind to extend his overall race lead.
Alaphilippe was part of an early breakaway group of 21 riders and held on to beat Jan Polanc and Rafal Majka by two seconds in a time of 4hrs 37mins 55secs.
Froome showed he remains the man to beat overall as the Briton aims to become just the third man to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta in the same year.
The Sky rider left all of his general classification rivals, bar Alberto Contador, trailing on the category-one climb up Xorret de Cati before a short descent to the finish line to extend his lead over Esteban Chaves to 28 seconds.
“I certainly didn’t need to attack but I am good to take advantage of it whilst my legs are feeling good,” a confident Froome told Spanish TV station Teledeporte.
“The most important thing for me was to try and keep pushing trying to open up the time gaps and we’ll see where we are after fist rest day.”
Ireland’s Nicolas Roche remains third overall, a further 13 seconds back.
Italian duo Vincenzo Nibalo and Fabio Aru were in the group alongside Chaves, 17 seconds behind Froome, to fall 53 seconds and 1min 06sec behind the race lead respectively.
Despite a return to form in the past few days, three-time Vuelta winner Contador remains over three minutes behind in his final race before retirement after a poor start.
Froome was once again put in the perfect position by his Sky teammates as they pushed the pace to prevent the breakaway.
“I know I say it every day but again a massive thank you to my teammates,” added Froome.
“The guys need a break but they have been so strong and it’s thanks to them I’m still in the red jersey.”
Whilst Froome put time into his rivals, Alaphilippe sealed Quick-Step’s third stage win of the race and the biggest of his career to date.
“I didn’t think I would win this stage today,” said the Frenchman.
“For me it’s been a little bit complicated for two or three stages, I didn’t feel so good, but I think it’s the same for everybody.
“We’ve had a great start with the team, from the beginning of the race we are always in the front.”
Sunday’s ninth stage contains another category one climb to the finish of the 174km ride from Orihuela to Cumbre del Sol.