Vuelta a Espana: Magnus Cort Nilsen wins stage 18 as Quintana maintains Froome lead

Magnus Cort Nielsen (right) celebrates
Magnus Cort Nielsen (right) celebrates after claiming stage 18 victory

Denmark's Magnus Cort Nielsen claimed stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana in a sprint finish as Nairo Quintana maintained his lead over Chris Froome.

Nielsen took his first Grand Tour stage win from Nikias Arndt with Jean-Pierre Drucker of Luxembourg in third.

Colombia's Quintana finished alongside Britain's Froome in the 200km race from Requena to Gandia to stay three minutes and 37 seconds ahead in the standings.

Froome will hope to close the gap in Friday's crucial 37km time trial.

The Team Sky rider, who won Olympic time trial bronze in Rio, is bidding to become the first man for 38 years to win the Tour de France and Vuelta in the same season.

Following the time trial, there is only Saturday's mountain-top finish for Froome to challenge Quintana because Sunday's finale is a largely processional race to Madrid.

Nielsen, 23, who won a third Vuelta stage for his Orica-BikeExchange team, said: "It's a really big dream come true."

Stage 18 result:

1. Magnus Cort (Den/Orica) 4hrs 54mins 31secs

2. Nikias Arndt (Ger/Giant) Same time

3. Jempy Druecker (Lux/BMC Racing)

4. Daniele Bennati (Ita/Tinkoff)

5. Jonas Van Genechten (Bel/IAM Cycling)

6. Kiel Reijnen (US/Trek)

7. Michael Schwarzmann (Ger/BORA)

8. Gianni Meersman (Bel/Etixx - Quick-Step)

9. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita/Dimension Data)

10. Lorrenzo Manzin (Fran/FDJ)

General classification after stage 18:

1. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) 74 hrs 30mins 03secs

2. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +3mins 37secs

3. Esteban Chaves (Col/Orica) +3mins 57secs

4. Alberto Contador (Spa/Tinkoff) +4mins 02secs

5. Simon Yates (GB/Orica) +6mins 03secs

6. Andrew Talansky (US/Cannondale) +7mins 34secs

7. Samuel Sanchez (Spa/BMC Racing) +8mins 12secs

8. Davide Formolo (Ita/Cannondale) +8mins 13secs

9. Michele Scarponi (Ita/Astana) +8mins 28secs

10. David De La Cruz (Spa/Etixx - Quick-Step) +8mins 52secs

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