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Fabio Aru wins Vuelta a Espana stage as Chris Froome moves into second

​Fabio Aru sprinted to victory on stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana as Chris Froome moved into second place overall with a strong finish.

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Aru made his move for the line in the closing stages of Thursday's 157-kilometre stage from A Estrada to Monte Castrove, with Froome the only one of the general classification contenders to go with the Astana rider.

Froome was unable to take the stage win in the late sprint, but the time he made up on Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) keeps him contention to claim the overall title.

Spaniard Contador lost 17 seconds to his rival to lead by one minute and 19 seconds, while Valverde slipped 13 seconds behind Team Sky's Froome.

Jesse Sergent of Trek Factory Racing, who saw Fabian Cancellara withdraw before the stage to focus on the World Championships, made an early attempt to break clear of the peloton in a close opening 50km, but he was quickly caught.

Eventually, Johan Le Bon (FDJ.fr) made a break stick to move clear with nine other riders on the flat start to the stage.

When the first ascent of Monte Castrove arrived, it was king of the mountains leader Luis Leon Sanchez (Caja Rural) who pushed clear to ensure he stayed top of the classification by reaching the top of the climb first.

Castrove's lead disappeared immediately, though, as Alberto Losada (Katusha) and Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale) overtook him on the descent, but soon enough all three were back in the peloton.

Contador and Froome had maintained a watching brief to that point before the Briton came to the fore to pick up two seconds in the first sprint, cutting his gap to Valverde.

The second trip up Monte Castrove saw the race begin in earnest as Aru made his move.

While others struggled to bridge the gap to the Italian, Froome had no such problems and the pair began a battle to the finish line.

Having negotiated the climb, the lead changed hands on a number of occasions before Aru came round the final bend ahead to claim the stage win.

However, Froome's efforts were rewarded with the overall gains he made with just three stages of the race remaining.

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