Magnus Cort Nielsen sprints to victory on Vuelta a España stage 18

The Dane took the win as the GC contenders stayed safe on a relatively low-key day at the Vuelta a España

(Image credit: Watson)

Orica-BikeExchange took a third stage victory at the 2016 Vuelta a España as Magnus Cort Nielsen sprinted to victory on stage 18 of the race.

>>> Can Chris Froome still win the Vuelta a España?

The Dane managed to hold off Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) and stage 16 winner Jempy Drucker (BMC) on the final run-in to Gandia, adding a third stage victory to those Simon Yates and Jens Keukeleire took for Orica earlier in the race.

The Australian team also have two riders, including Yates, in the top-10 on GC, with Esteban Chaves still holding onto third place ahead of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff).

All of the GC contenders, including red jersey Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Britain's Chris Froome (Team Sky), finished safely in the front group on the stage to keep the standings as they were, on what proved to be a relatively straightforward day of racing.

The 200.6km rolling stage looked to be one for a breakaway with some significant lumps on the profile, but the sprinter's teams looked determine to set things up for a bunch finish, and quickly reeled the day's main break in.

Vuelta a Espana - Stage 18

(Image credit: Watson)

Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek - Segafredo), Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r La Mondiale), Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Soudal), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale - Drapac) and Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre - Merida) gained a maximum gap of almost seven minutes early on in the day, but never looked set to contest the win.

With around 30km or so to go things began to split up for the breakaway, but there was a last ditch attempt from Beppu, Jauregui, Vervaeke and Rolland to try and make things stick.

>>> Watch: 360-degree on-bike footage from inside the Vuelta a España peloton

They held out until around 12km to go, when the work of Etixx-Quick Step for their sprinter Gianni Meersman took it's toll and the break were brought back.

Jan Bakelants made a solo attack to no avail with 3.5km to go to try and spoil the sprinters' day, but eventually it was down to a bunch gallop to the line which saw Nielsen hold everyone off to take victory in his maiden Grand Tour.

Friday will see a decisive day for the GC riders, as the peloton take on the race's only individual time trial to Calpe.

Vuelta a Espana - Stage 18

(Image credit: Watson)

Vuelta a España 2016, stage 18, Requena - Gandia (200.6km):

1. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-BikeExchange, in

2. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Giant-Alpecin

3. Jempy Drucker (Lux) BMC

4. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff

5. Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) IAM Cycling

6. Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo

7. Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18

8. Gianni Meersman (Ita) Etixx-Quick Step

9. Kristan Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data

10. Lorenzo Manzin (Fra) FDJ, all same time

Overall standings after stage 18

1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, 74-30-03

2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 3-37

3. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at 3-57

4. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff at 4-02

5. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange at 6-03

6. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac at 7-34

7. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) BMC Racing at 8-12

8. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac at 8-13

9. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 8-28

10. David de la Cruz (Esp) Etixx-Quick Step at 8-52

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Richard Windsor

Follow on Twitter: @richwindy

Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.

An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).