Hola and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the 169km stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana from Suances to Santo Toribio de Liébana. The riders face another day in the mountains as the fight for overall victory intensifies.
Stage 16 report: Froome wins time trial to extend lead
Stage 17 report: Froome struggles on Los Machucos
Our live coverage begins as the riders cover the neutralised sector before the flag is dropped for the 169km of racing.
A total of 161 riders are left in the race, with Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) a non-starter due to illness.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) still leads and so wears the red jersey but his difficult day on Wednesday means his lead on Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) is down to just 1:16.
This is the top ten in the general classification after the steep finish to Alto de los Machucos.
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 67:44:03
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 0:01:16
3 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:02:13
4 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin 0:02:25
5 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:03:34
6 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:04:39
7 Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac 0:06:33
8 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky 0:06:40
9 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:06:45
10 David de la Cruz (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:10:10
Today's stage is not as tough, with a flat opening 100km. However the climbs then come thick and fast, with a nasty but short climb p to the finish. Froome's weaknesses cold be exposed again.
Local resident and former triple World Champion Oscar Freire was at the start and discussed the day’s stage route with Cyclingnews.
“The last climb is tricky but I don’t think it’s going to be that bad, at most somebody having a bad day will lose 10 seconds. There’s a lot of flat terrain before hand and if you have team driving hard, it can make you suffer, and a few climbs, but it’s not too hard. Really it’s the very first part of the stage that could do damage, along the coast, if there’s going to be a break it’s hard for the top teams to control," he said.
"And if they can’t control them what'll happens is what happened round here in 2012, when Contador attacked on the way to Fuente De and won the Vuelta.”
The official start of the stage was delayed slightly due to a crash but the flag has dropped and we can see the first attacks from the Cyclingnews blimp.
Richard Carapaz (Movistar) is the first to attack but other riders are on the move too.
The riders have a slight tail wind to help them head inland. the sun is out, with temperatures of 20C.
159km remaining from 169km
The peloton is all back together, as riders struggle to get away.
Chris Froome got a huge cheer at the start but Stefan Denifl of Aqua Blue Sport did too after his stage victory yesterday. He even got a message of congratulation from the Austrian President.
He spoke briefly at the start.
"It was a really amazing day. I'm so proud of everybody and what we achieved here," he said in a video posted by the team.
"The support of the Irish fans and the Austrian cycling fans was amazing. It has been our first year, our first Grand Tour and the stage win was amazing. Now we just want to enjoy the next few days and then go to Madrid and have some beers."
He and his teammates deserve a beer after taking such a big win on their Grand Tour debut and considering their team bus was set on fire earlier in the race.
Back in the race, there is still no break after 17km of racing.
Yesterday Denifl dedicated his win to his wife and baby boy, later posing a photo of him on social media.
"This is for my girlfriend and little boy. I think they're watching at home. I can't believe it; I had super, super legs today. I was waiting the whole Vuelta for this day. I paced myself the whole Vuelta, and today I went all in. It's just amazing. For me team, Aqua Blue we're at our first Grand