Vuelta a Espana: Chris Froome wins stage nine to extend lead
Britain's Chris Froome has extended his lead in the Vuelta a Espana after winning stage nine.
Froome, leading by 28 seconds at the start of the day, attacked with 500 metres to go and held off Esteban Chaves to win in 4hrs 7mins 13secs.
The four-time Tour de France winner now has a 36-second lead over Colombia's Chaves, who rides for Orica-Scott.
The Team Sky rider is looking to become the first man to achieve a Tour-Vuelta double in 39 years.
Only French greats Jacques Anquetil in 1963 and Bernard Hinault in 1978 have previously won both races in the same year.
Froome's win on the 174km stage from Orihuela to Benitachell sees him open a significant advantage over the rest of his general classification rivals.
Behind second-placed Chaves, Ireland's Nicolas Roche has fallen 65 seconds back, while Vincenzo Nibali is now 1min 17secs behind and Fabio Aru a further 16 seconds back.
Froome attacked with 500 metres to go of the steeply uphill finish and looked to have built a decisive gap, only for Chaves to dig deep and get back onto Froome's back wheel.
However, Froome was able to accelerate again and pulled clear to win by four seconds and extend his lead over Chaves in the general classification to 36 seconds.
After the last survivor of an initial 10-man breakaway was finally caught by the peloton with six kilometres remaining, Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) twice tried to escape from the bunch on the final climb.
But Froome refused to panic and sat calmly behind team-mate Mikel Nieve at the front of the group containing the title contenders, none of whom were able to overtake.
The four-time Tour de France winner eventually hit the front with 500 metres remaining and was able to respond when Chaves briefly caught him with 200 metres to go to maintain a firm grip on the leader's red jersey.
"I put everything I had into that last couple of hundred metres," Froome said after his first stage win of 2017.
"I was determined that they weren't going to catch me.
"I'm really, really happy to get the victory. The team did a brilliant job on that final climb and set such a good tempo.
"After a week we couldn't have asked to be in a better position. It's been a fantastic start to the Vuelta. The legs are feeling great. I've been to the Vuelta so many times, trying to target this race, and so far it feels like everything is going really well."
Monday is a rest day before stage 10 sees the riders tackle the 164.8km from Caravaca to El Pozo.
Stage nine results
1. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 4hrs 07mins 13secs
2. Esteban Chaves (Col/Orica-Scott) +4secs
3. Michael Woods (Can/Cannondale-Drapac) +5secs
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned/Team Sunweb) +8secs
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus/Katusha-Alpecin) Same time
6. Alberto Contador (Spa/Trek-Segafredo) +12secs
7. David de la Cruz (Spa/Quick-Step Floors) Same time
8. Sam Oomen (Ned/Team Sunweb)
9. Nicolas Roche (Ire/BMC Racing Team) +14secs
10. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain-Merida) Same time
Overall standings after stage nine
1. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 36hrs 33mins 16secs
2. Esteban Chaves (Col/Orica-Scott) +36secs
3. Nicolas Roche (Ire/BMC Racing Team) +1min 05secs
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain-Merida) +1min 17secs
5. Tejay van Garderen (US/BMC Racing Team) +1min 27secs
6. David de la Cruz (Spa/Quick-Step Floors) +1min 30secs
7. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana Pro Team) +1min 33secs
8. Michael Woods (Can/Cannondale-Drapac) +1min 52secs
9. Adam Yates (GB/Orica-Scott) +1min 55secs
10. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus/Katusha-Alpecin) +2mins 15secs