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Alberto Contador on brink of Vuelta a Espana glory after stage 20 win

Alberto Contador effectively sealed the Vuelta a Espana title for a third time with victory in the penultimate stage on Saturday.

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The Spaniard, who has won his home race on two previous occasions in 2008 and 2012, raced clear from Chris Froome on the final climb to all but secure the crown ahead of Sunday's final stage, a short 9.7-kilometre time trial.

Tinkoff-Saxo rider Contador held off a number of attacks from Team Sky's Froome before executing a superbly timed surge inside the final 500 metres to finish 16 seconds ahead of his British rival.

Contador now heads the general classification by one minute and 37 seconds from Froome and will now win his sixth Grand Tour event barring an unexpected final-stage collapse.

Four riders took the lead up front to form the day's breakaway as Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Wout Poels (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Jerome Coppel (Cofidis) and Maxime Mederel (Europcar) all escaped from the pack.

However, despite trailing the leading group by 10 minutes at one stage, the peloton - led predominantly by Team Sky and Astana caught up with 9.5km remaining to set up a thrilling finish on the final ascent, which had at one point reached an 18 per cent gradient.

Joaquim Rodriguez set the pace at the front for much of that climb but was pursued by Contador and Froome, who soon moved ahead of the Katusha rider to leave the two past Tour de France champions battling it out for the win.

Froome tried on three occasions to drop Contador, but all those attempts ended in failure. And the Kenyan-born rider had nothing left to defend Contador's attack, allowing the 31-year-old to power to a magnificent triumph.

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