• Miguel Angel Lopez claimed his first victory in a Grand Tour. (Getty)Source: Getty
Miguel Angel Lopez became the Vuelta's latest first-time winner but the Chris Froome procession has continued on a brutal mountain stage.
Cycling Central

31 Aug 2017 - 5:36 AM  UPDATED 31 Aug 2017 - 8:33 AM

Chris Froome (Sky) has tightened his grasp on the Vuelta a España title after coming second in the high mountain stage and opening a gap of 1 minute, 19 seconds in the general classification.

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) won the stage ahead of Froome and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), his first victory in a grand tour, to move into the top 10.

Froome added to his lead on the gruelling stage from Lorca to Calar Alto in Andalusia, which featured 3490m of climbing and finished 2120m above sea level.

He finished with Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) and Nibali, 14 seconds behind Lopez and took a six-second bonus in his bid to become the first rider since 1978 to win both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España in a single season.

"I'm very happy with the outcome today. I think it was a very selective day for the general classification, and to finish second, I couldn't have asked for much more than that other than a stage victory," four-time Tour de France champion Froome said.

"When Lopez went, he was extremely strong and at the top, I figured for me the most important thing was going to be to follow Vincenzo and to stay with the real favourites."

Nibali overtook Esteban Chaves as Froome's nearest challenger and moved into second place overall, with the Orica-Scott climber dropping from 36 seconds behind Froome before the stage to 2min 33sec adrift in third.

"It was a very complicated stage with the rain, which made it even more exhausting, but I'm really happy because the team has worked so well through the Vuelta," Lopez said.

"This is a big achievement. In the end we found ourselves with good legs, and I knew a bit of the final part so I was relaxed. I preferred to wait to attack until the last one or one-and-a-half kilometres, which were really hard."