By Paul Osborne

Alberto Contador has all but sealed the Vuelta a España title after winning stage 20 ©Getty ImagesSpain's Alberto Contador has all but sealed the Vuelta a España title after racing past closest competitor Chris Froome to seal stage 20 of the race.

The Spaniard came into the penultimate stage of the Vuelta, a 185.7 kilometres trek from Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil to Puerto de Ancares, with a 1 min 19sec lead over the Briton and timed a sprint to perfection to speed past the Team Sky rider with 500 metres of the final climb left to ride.

Tinkoff-Saxo's Contador, winner of the race in 2008 and 2012, now sits 1:37 ahead in the general classification going into tomorrow's final stage, a 9.7 kilometre time trial.

"I'm thrilled with another stage win," said Contador.

"I've won the two 'queen stages,' you cannot ask for more.

"Froome has the strength to change rhythm, and it's not easy to follow.

"Fortunately, my legs are still good and I could catch him.

"Now I just need to stay focused tomorrow and make sure nothing unfortunate happens."

Alberto Contador's stage 20 victory has all but sealed him the Vuelta a España title ©Getty ImagesAlberto Contador's stage 20 victory has all but sealed him the Vuelta a España title
©Getty Images

The leaders of the general classification had sat amid the main peloton for the majority of the stage after four-man breakaway involving Poland's Przemyslaw Niemiec, French duo Jerome Coppel and Maxime Mederel and Dutchman Wouter Poels opened up a lead of more than 10 minutes after the first 100km of racing, before Team Sky and Astana began to lead the chase.

The lead had been whittled down to just three minutes going into the penultimate climb, the 10km Alto de Folgueiras de Aigas, with this advantage less than 40 seconds as the peloton reached the summit.

With the final climb, the brutal 12km category one Puerto de Ancares, looming, the last of the escapees was reeled in leaving the general classification leaders to battle it out for the win.

Joaquim Rodriguez was the first to attack as the Katusha rider sprung out of the group with nine kilometres left.

Rodriguez eked his lead out to 30 seconds, before Froome set about closing the gap.

After dropping the remaining peloton stragglers, Froome, with Contador close behind, reeled in Rodriguez before initiating a series of back-to-back attacks.

He finally dropped the Spaniard to set up a two-horse race with Contador, however, the race leader proved immune to the Froome's constant attacks and eventually had the legs to take the stage win with an attack of his own in the final 500m.

Despite not making any ground on the leader, Froome cemented his position in second with a 58 second lead over Alejandro Valverde in third.

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