• Dumoulin is in control, but for how long? (AAP)Source: AAP
Tom Dumoulin's grip on the Vuelta a Espana race lead tightened on Stage 18 as he successfully defended against all assaults.
Cycling Central

11 Sep 2015 - 7:06 AM  UPDATED 11 Sep 2015 - 7:37 AM

The Giant-Alpecin rider looked confident and composed as he marked his general classification rivals, particularly Fabio Aru (Astana), throughout the 204km stage from Roa to Riaza.

Dumoulin even had the stones to put in a small attack of his own at 4km to go, firing a warning shot across the bows of those who hoped the Dutchman was hoping to hold on to his slim lead by the skin of his teeth.

Aru: three seconds is nothing
Fabio Aru's repeated attacks may have come to naught on the Vuelta's 18th stage, but he will continue to try and crack race leader Tom Dumoulin until Madrid.
Roche takes the win as Dumoulin marks Aru's attacks
There were plenty of attacks on Stage 18 of the Vuelta a España, but the only one that counted on an active day of racing was won by Nicholas Roche ahead of Haimar Zubeldia.

"It was a hard day," Dumoulin said, "but I'm still in red and I could handle those attacks. I knew [Aru] had spent some energy, so when Dani Moreno (Katusha) tried a move late on, I made a counter-attack of my own."

Dumoulin added that he knew he would retain the red jersey after surviving Aru's first attempt to distance him.

"Of course it hurt, that first attack was very strong, but I always kept his wheel, even when it got steeper," he said.

"I know that Astana's strategy is to isolate me and get me out of the red jersey. But I know if I stay on Aru's wheel, then they cannot do anything."

Dumoulin is clearly ready for the inevitable attacks that will beset him on the remaining two stages before the final procession into Madrid.

“There will be two difficult days to come, where a lot can happen," he said.