Nicolas Roche wins stage 18 of the Vuelta a España as Tom Dumoulin holds on to his three-second advantage over Fabio Aru in the general classification

Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) neutralised Fabio Aru’s (Astana) every move on a thrilling stage 18 of the Vuelta a España, hanging on to his three second advantage over the Italian into the race’s final three stages.

Nicolas Roche (Team Sky), part of the large breakaway, outsprinted Trek’s Haimar Zubeldia for the stage win as the group of general classification favourites crossed the line together 38 seconds later.

It wasn’t for the lack of trying on Aru’s part, though, with the Astana rider attacking numerous times on the first category climb that came with 35km to race, but Dumoulin was not to be shaken from his wheel

Sitting 1-15 down on Dumoulin, Joaquim Rodriguez’s need to attack is much more severe than Aru’s and the Spaniard attempted to go up the road with Katusha teammate Angel Vicioso at at the start of the climb but to no avail.

Shortly after that attack Astana ramped up the pace in the peloton in an attempt to shake off Dumoulin’s support riders and leave him isolated before the final climb.

Meanwhile up ahead, Europcar’s Cyril Gautier, leaving for Ag2r La Mondiale at the end of the season, was staking his claim for the stage win by attacking off the breakaway group. That charge was later taken up by Roche, who was joined by Zubeldia over the top of the climb to start the descent towards the finish.

Back on the ascent, though, Aru tried time and time again to attack Dumoulin, but the Dutchman was not to be moved as if he was attached to the Italian’s bike by a rope.

Race Leader, Tom Dumoulin in action on Stage 18 of the 2015 Vuelta Espana (Watson)

Race Leader, Tom Dumoulin in action on Stage 18 of the 2015 Vuelta Espana (Watson)

With 19km to go, 15km to go and then near the top of the climb Aru got out of the saddle to try and pull away, but the red jersey was never far from his back wheel.

On the descent Roche and Zubeldia increased their lead to nearly a minute as Dumoulin, Aru, Quintana and co matched each other on the downhill.

With 5km to go the roads flattened out, with Dumoulin even finding himself a couple of dozen metres ahead of Aru at one point. Instead of eeking out more seconds on the Italian, Dumoulin instead sat up and waited to settle behind Aru’s wheel once more.

Even at the finish, after Roche settled the stage, Aru put his foot on the gas but Dumoulin nonchalantly wheeled over the line immediately after him to cross off another stage and take the race into the final three days.

Vuelta a España stage 18, Roa – Riaza (204km)
1. Nicolas Roche (Ire) Team Sky, 5-03-59
2. Haimar Zubeldia (Esp) Trek, st
3. Jose Goncalves (Esp) Caja Rural – Seguros RGA, at 18s
4. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 38s
5. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge, st
6. Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha, st
7. Pieter Serry (Bel) Etixx-Quick Step, st
8. Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto-Soudal, st
9. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx-Quick Step, st
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale, st

Overall standings after 18 stages
1. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin, 73-45-13
2. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 3s
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha, at 1-15
4. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo, at 2-22
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 2-53
6. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 3-15
7. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge, at 3-30
8. Dani Moreno (Esp) Katusha, at 3-46
9. Mikel Nieve (Esp) Astana, at 4-10
10. Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN-Qhubeka, at 6-10

  • D vO

    Sorry Bob, I though you replied to my post.

  • Bob

    i don’t know what point you are making lol as i was agreeing – ive watched every day, & there’s no one more deserving IMHO – at a guess he played down his GC aspirations so as not to put too much pressure on himself. Indurain used to win the TT’s and hung on in the hills and no-one would say he didn’t deserve 5 TDF’s, or would they? 🙂 its rare for a GC winner to be a bad tester but its about more as Dumoulin has proven so far – GL

  • D vO

    Well Bob, he attacked in stage 9 to win it (wth a finish on Alto de Puig something) and he attacked in stage 2 in which he became second. So it is not just a TT…

  • Bob

    You must be watching a different race to the rest of us. one TT does not make a winner anyway

  • D vO

    Tom Dumoulin is also a good climber. He won a finish uphill and became second in another. All without the help of his team. He was not even aiming for the GC, just wanted to get the red jersey for a few stages. Also, you have not been watching this year’s vuelta if you think Dumoulin is not a fighter.

  • Interistaaa

    I hope Purito or ARu wins it! I Like fighters, athletes who try! Would be sad if someone wins a Grand Tour mostly because he’s good at an individual stage without mountains.

  • Bob

    I hope Dumoulin wins it