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Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic expanded his lead after finishing second behind Colombia’s Sergio Higuita on point 18.
Roglic, that came third in this year’s Giro d’Italia, is just two minutes and 50 seconds clear of the Alejandro Valverde of Spain together with three phases left.
Period 18 was a hill point raced over 177.5km from Colmenar Viejo into Becerril de la Sierra.
This is 22-year-old Higuita stage victory in a Grand Tour occasion.
“I took a risk and it paid off,” said Higuita, who finished 15 seconds clear of Roglic, Valverde along with Poland’s Rafal Majka after attacking 50km out.
Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hartcame 14th, three places ahead of the James Knox, that slipped one place of Deceuninck-Quick-Step.
Colombia’s Nairo Quintana, that was next heading to the point and won the Vuelta in 2016, fell to third overall after being shed over the penultimate climb of the day.
The 19th stage takes place on Friday, a relatively flat 165.2km course from Avila into Toledo.
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