• Julian Alaphilippe had Rafal Majka covered on Stage 8 of the Vuelta. (Getty)Source: Getty
Chris Froome took another step to becoming the first man to win both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España in a single season as Julian Alaphilippe took stage eight.
Cycling Central

27 Aug 2017 - 5:38 AM  UPDATED 27 Aug 2017 - 5:43 AM

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step-Floors) signalled his return to top form after knee surgery when he took his maiden Grand Tour win in the eighth stage of the Vuelta a España.

He was the quickest in the sprint after the 199.5km stage from Hellín to Xorret de Catí, beating Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) and BORA-hansgrohe's Rafal Majka by two seconds.

Alaphilippe, who missed the Tour because of a knee injury, was part of the day's breakaway and covered Rafal Majka's attacks on the final climb, a brutal ascent featuring gradients of more than 20 per cent.

"I did not expect to win the stage today. It was complicated as I did not feel that great. I was more thinking about tomorrow," Alaphilippe said.

Chris Froome (Sky) attacked on the final climb to extend his overall lead with only Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) able to react..

In the group of overall contenders, Froome first appeared to struggle but only Contador could take his wheel when the Team Sky rider accelerated 4km from the finish. The duo gained 17 seconds on their closest rivals.

Froome now leads Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) by 28 seconds and Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing) by 41.

Contador (Trek-Segafredo), in his final race before heading into retirement, is 17th, more than three minutes off the pace after losing ground in the first week but has gradually recovered.