Battle for Vuelta tighter than ever after dramatic stage 17

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MADRID, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- The battle for the 2018 Vuelta de Espana (Tour of Spain) cycle race is tighter than ever after a dramatic 17th stage between Getxo and the Balcon de Bizkaya in the Basque region of northern Spain on Wednesday.

Michael Woods (Education First) won the stage after showing himself the strongest rider of a breakaway which opened up after around 40 kilometers of the 151-kilometer stage. Woods finished just ahead of Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing Team) and David de la Cruz (Sky), while behind them the race for the overall classification developed.

With the finish line shrouded in fog, the riders looked as if they were riding over the finish line in slow motion.

Although the stage gave little moments for rest as it covered the rolling hilly terrain of the Basque region, the final 30 kilometers were exceptionally testing with three climbs; the last of which up the Balcon de Bizkaia was on a road with a concrete rather than an asphalt surface, making its ramps of up to 20 percent gradient even more difficult.

Valverde launched a strong attack with around four kilometers on the climb up to the Balcon de Bizkaia and that saw his team-mate Nairo Quintana lose contact with the group of favorites.

Race leader Simon Yates and Enric Mas (Quick Step) were able to maintain contact with Valverde until the closing meters when Valverde and Mas were able to steal 8 seconds off him at the finish line.

That means Valverde, who ceded 7 seconds to Yates in Tuesday's time trial, will go into Thursday's flat stage 18 just 25 seconds off the lead, with Mas moving into third place a minute and 22 seconds off the lead after Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), who began the day in third place, struggled on the final climb. Enditem

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