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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019

Ireland's Nicolas Roche has won today's stage at the Vuelta a Espana

The Team Sky rider crossed the line first after a sprint finish.

It's Roche's first win in the Team Sky colours.
It's Roche's first win in the Team Sky colours.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

IRELAND’S NICOLAS ROCHE claimed the 18th stage of Spain’s Vuelta this afternoon as Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin maintained his three second advantage over Italian Fabio Aru in the overall standings.

Roche was part of a 25-man breakaway early in the stage and held off Spain’s Haimar Zubeldia on the descent to the finish to win the 204km stage from Roa to Riaza in a time of 5 hours, 3 minutes and 59 seconds, with Portugal’s Jose Goncalves in third.

It’s Roche’s second stage win on the Vuelta and the 22nd stage an Irishman has won.

Roche’s victory was Team Sky’s first of a race beset by misfortune for the British team.

Tour de France winner Chris Froome was forced to retire after suffering a broken bone in his foot on stage 11, whilst Roche himself suffered a heavy crash when sitting fourth in the overall standings a day earlier.

“Zubeldia is a strong rider who has a lot of experience. I have lost against him in a sprint many times when we have arrived together,” said Roche, who also won a stage at the Vuelta in 2013.

“I knew I needed to do it right and I tried to go from the front to control the speed, and it worked.

“It was very important for the team. We have had some difficult days after the crashes. I came here with high expectations and I had 10 fantastic days and then it was a very difficult blow to take.

“I found it difficult to fight for a while and I wanted to do well for the team as well. Today is a fantastic day.”

Just three stages remain before the gruelling three-week tour around Spain concludes in Madrid on Sunday.

Aru’s best chance of usurping Dumoulin is likely to come on Saturday’s penultimate stage which includes four first category climbs.

Before then the race continues on Friday with a 185.8km ride from Medina del Campo to Avila.

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Ryan Bailey

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