Vuelta a Espana: Ben Swift pipped for win as Contador retains lead

Daniele Bennati (left) raises his arm in celebrtion on stage 18 as Ben Swift (right) misses out

Britain's Ben Swift agonisingly missed out on a stage victory in the Vuelta a Espana as Alberto Contador retained the overall lead after stage 18.

The Team Sky rider was well positioned in a sprint finish into Valladolid after the longest stage of the race.

But Italian Daniele Bennati edged him out on the line by a few centimetres to deny the Briton a notable win.

Contador remains on course for a first major victory since returning from a doping ban, with three stages left.

Another long flat stage beckons on Friday ahead of the final mountain stage on Saturday, before the three-week race concludes in Madrid on Sunday.

Contador leads compatriot Alejandro Valverde by one minute and 52 seconds, with the long-time leader Joaquim Rodriguez 2:28 back in third.

Great Britain's Chris Froome, the Tour de France runner-up and Olympic time-trial bronze medallist, remains fourth, 9:40 down on Contador.

Stage 18 results:

1. Daniele Bennati (Ita/Radioshack) 4:17:17

2. Ben Swift (GB/Team Sky) same time

3. Allan Davis (Aus/Orica) same time

4. Lloyd Mondory(Fra/AG2R) same time

5. John Degenkolb (Ger/Argos) same time

Overall standings after 18 stages:

1. Alberto Contador (Spa/Saxo Bank) 72:25:21"

2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +1:52"

3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa/Katusha) +2:28"

4. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +9:40"

5. Daniel Moreno (Spa/Katusha) +11:36"

6. Robert Gesink (Ned/Rabobank) +12:02"

7. Laurens ten Dam (Ned/Rabobank) +12:55"

8. Andrew Talansky (US/Garmin) +13:06"

9. Igor Anton (Spa/Euskaltel) +13:49"

10. Benat Intxausti (Spa/Movistar) +14:10"

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