GIJON, Spain — Chris Froome kept his comfortable lead over Italian Vincenzo Nibali ahead of Saturday’s decisive Spanish Vuelta stage up the challenging l’Angliru summit.
Froome avoided trouble in Friday’s 150-kilometer (93-mile) ride from Caso to Gijon, staying 1 minute, 37 seconds ahead of Nibali in the overall standings.
Wilco Kelderman of the Netherlands remained third, more than two minutes behind Froome.
Thomas De Gendt of Belgium won the stage at the final sprint, crossing the line ahead of Jarlinson Pantano of Colombia and Ivan Garcia Cortina of Spain.
“I had to do the sprint of my life, just go full until the finish,” said the Belgian, who also won stages at the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.
Froome, the Tour de France winner, avoided taking any risks and stayed with the main peloton throughout the stage.
“For me it was about trying to save as much energy as possible for tomorrow and get through the day without much issues,” The British rider said. “So I’m happy to let the day behind us and focus on tomorrow. Angliru is going to be rude, but it’s an explosive and short stage, so we can expect fireworks from the start. Everybody is tired at this point of the race, but I feel good.”
Saturday will be the last competitive stage before riders parade into Madrid on Sunday to end the three-week Grand Tour race.
Riders will face a pair of Category 1 climbs before a grueling ascent to the special-category finish at the Alto de l’Angliru.
Froome is trying to win the Vuelta for the first time. He finished runner-up three times, including last year.
Froome can become the third rider to complete the Tour-Vuelta double in the same season.