Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) won stage 5 of the Vuelta a España on Thursday after leaving behind the last of his breakaway companions on the short, steep haul to the finish at Alcossebre, while Chris Froome (Sky) strengthened his lead in the overall standings with a sprint in the final moments of the 175.7 kilometer run from Benicàssim to Alcossebre that saw him finish 14th.
The Kazakh attacked the five mountain passes, leaving Marco Haller behind at the start of the stage’s final climb, a short but steep haul up to the Ermita de Santa Lucía church and its views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Lutsenko was followed by the Eritrean Merhawi Kudus and the Spaniard Marc Soler, while Austrian Marco Hailer came in sixth.
With his eye on his pulsometer, Froome sped up on the last two kilometers, shadowed by Canadian Michael Woods and Colombian Johan Chaves while Bardet dropped 49 seconds with respect to Froome, Nibali 26, De la Cruz 21, Aru and Adam Yates 11.
Alberto Contador continued to show steady improvement. The Spaniard's final Vuelta looked set to be a disappointing one when he conceded more than two minutes in Andorra. But on Thursday he showed signs of a revival, though he remains 3:10 behind Froome in the overall standings.
"My sensations were better than they have been for the past few days, and I'm pretty happy with how it went. We still have quite a bit of work to do. I'm reasonably happy with how it is going," Contador said after the stage. "The crowd was really impressive, and I'm happy that I could do something for them."
The race finishes in Madrid on September 10 after another 16 stages.
English version by Heather Galloway.