Chris Froome put in another fabulous ride up the Pena Cabarga to snatch the stage victory away from Nairo Quintana today. The Colombian who still retains the red jersey made an attack a couple of km from the summit. The select group he broke away from, most notably Valverde and Contador, were unable to follow, apart from Froome who was able to hold onto the Movistar rider's wheel.
Froome launched an attack of his own which Quintana followed. There ensued a bit of cat and mouse as the pair vied for position a few hundred metres from the finish. But it was Froome who went first, powering his way ahead and taking the Stage victory, winning a useful 10 bonus seconds. He's now in second place ahead of Valverde and creeping ever closer to Quintana.
Froome had drawn some criticism over the rest day for relying on his power meter to get him up Monday's climb up Covadonga, with Quintana suggesting that they should be banned from the race. But there's no denying Froome's strong form. He's also riding with great tactical nous and is looking like a favourite to win the GC with a Time Trial to come on stage 19. The stage victory today clearly meant a lot to him as he punched the air in celebration over the finish line in an uncharacteristic show of emotion.
Take pity on Belgian Ben Hermans of BMC who did most of the work on the day's breakaway and remained clear of the peloton until the final kilometres of the climb. A gutsy, gritty ride from a tough man. Chapeau.
Tomorrow will be a long day, covering 193.2km between Los Corrales de Buelna and Bilbao, with four mountain passes, the most notable being Alisas and the double pass through El Vivero in the final part, with a 4.2km climb and an 8.5% incline just 13km from the finale at the Biscayan capital.