Vuelta a Espana: Chris Froome pipped to stage win by Valverde

Chris Froome
Chris Froome finished second in the Vuelta in 2011 and fourth in 2012

Team Sky's Chris Froome moved up to fourth in the overall standings after a close finish on the sixth stage of the Vuelta a Espana.

Briton Froome was pipped to the line by Spain's Alejandro Valverde, who takes the overall lead.

The Movistar rider was impressive throughout the 167km stage, with another Spaniard, Alberto Contador, finishing third.

Former Tour de France winner Froome is 22 seconds behind the leader Valverde.

For the second day running, Dutch rider Pim Ligthart made an early breakaway, this time alongside Spain's Luis Mas Bonet, and at one stage the pair led by over 14 minutes.

Alejandro Valverde
Spain's Alejandro Valverde will wear the leader's red jersey heading into stage seven

But Ligthart's brave attempt to take the stage came to an end just 3km from the finish line when he was swallowed up by the peloton.

Valverde came to the fore in a gruelling uphill finish to cross the line first and snatch the race leader's red jersey.

Colombia's Nairo Alexander Quintana is 15 seconds behind in the overall standings. Contador is a further three seconds back in third, with Froome - aiming to become the first British rider to win two of the three Grand Tour races - lurking just behind.

Friday's seventh stage is a 169km race from Alhendin to Alcaudete, which may favour a rider who gets in the break.

Stage six results:

1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) 4:35:27

2. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) ST

3. Alberto Contador (Spa/Tankoff-Saxo)

4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa/Katusha) +8

5. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +12

6. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana) +18

7. Esteban Chaves (Col/Orica) +25

8. Daniel Navarro (Spa/Cofidis)

9. Mikel Nieve (Spa/Team Sky) +32

10. Robert Gesink (NED/Belkin) +33

Overall classifications after stage six:

1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) 22:48:08

2. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +15

3. Alberto Contador (Spa/Tinkoff-Saxo) +18

4. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +22

5. Esteban Chaves (Col/Orica) +41

6. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa/Katusha) +45

7. Robert Gesink (NED/Belkin) +55

8. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana) +58

9. Warren Barguil (Fra/Giant) +1:02

10. Wilco Kelderman (NED/Belkin) +1:06