Higuita wins stage, Roglic moves closer to Vuelta victory

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BECERRIL DE LA SIERRA, Spain — Primoz Roglic took a step closer to winning the Spanish Vuelta with a strong second-place finish on the 18th stage on Thursday, increasing his overall lead entering the final stretch of the three-week race.

Colombian Sergio Higuita won the 177.5-kilometer (110.3-mile) stage after breaking away and fending off a late charge by Roglic and Alejandro Valverde.

It was the first Grand Tour stage win for the 22-year-old rider from team EF Education First.

Roglic, a former ski jumper from Slovenia riding for team Jumbo-Visma, increased his lead to 2 minutes, 50 seconds going into the final two competitive stages before the finale in Madrid on Sunday.

Valverde, the veteran Spaniard from team Movistar, moved back to second overall after this third-place finish on Thursday.

Nairo Quintana, Valverde’s teammate, had been 2:24 behind Roglic after Wednesday’s stage. But the Colombian ended up losing ground and dropped to third overall.

Fellow Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez made several attacks on Thursday but couldn’t keep up with Roglic. He was fourth overall, more than four minutes off the lead.