ALTO HOYA DE LA MORA, Spain — Colombian rider Miguel Angel Lopez won the mountainous 15th stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Sunday, while Tour de France winner Chris Froome tacked a few seconds onto his overall lead.
A late surge by Froome over the final meters of the punishing ride over two category one and a final special-category ascent allowed him to grow the gap over Vincenzo Nibali.
“It’s all small steps at this stage,” Froome said about the six seconds he added to his advantage over Nibali, increasing it to 1 minute, 1 second.
The result allowed Froome to turn around the previous days’ trend of Nibali pecking away at the British rider’s comfortable advantage.
Lopez attacked with Alberto Contador near the start of the stage’s last climb. Lopez then set off on his own to pass breakaway rider Adam Yates and power his way to the summit finish at Alto Hoya de la Mora.
Lopez finished the 129.4-kilometer (80.4-mile) stage starting in Alcala la Real in 3 hours, 34 minutes, 51 seconds. He also moved up to sixth overall at 2:51 off Froome’s pace.
Lopez, a 23-year-old rider for Astana, claimed his first grand tour win on Wednesday, when he won a similarly tough mountain stage finishing at the Calar Alto summit.
“We decided to ride with Contador when he made a great attack, and I thought I had good legs and it all went off well,” Lopez said. “There are many hard stages to go. The Vuelta is not over and we will go forward step by step.”
The route drawn in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains ended with almost 28 kilometers (17.3 miles) of continuous ascent.
Nibali also launched a late attack to test Froome. But it didn’t pay off as Froome got help from Sky teammates Mikel Nieve and Wout Poels to keep Nibali in sight — and then reeled the Italian back before beating him to the finish line.
“I just have a huge, huge thank you for my teammates. There were a lot of big attacks today, but they stayed with me and controlled the speed,” Froome said. “We have seen everything at this Vuelta. crashes, attacks. I can expect everything (over the remaining week).”
Froome, a four-time Tour champion, has finished the Vuelta runner-up three times.
Ilnur Zakarin moved into third overall at 2:08 behind Froome.
Monday is the second rest day for the three-week race, which heads north on Tuesday with an individual time trial.
The final week of the race will stay in the north before its finish in Madrid on Sept. 10.