Contador leads Vuelta; Bennati wins 18th stage

Overall leader Alberto Contador moved closer to winning the race for a second time, while Daniele Bennati won the 18th stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Thursday.

Bennati edged Ben Swift by a tire to win the 127-mile leg in 4 hours, 17 minutes, 17 seconds. Contador leads Alejandro Valverde by 1:52 and Joaquin Rodriguez is 2:28 behind in third place.

Contador's stage win Wednesday stunned Rodriguez, whose inability to respond to his fellow Spaniard's attack cost him the overall lead he held since the fourth leg of the 21-stage race.

The 19th stage Friday is expected to favor sprinters. The stage on Saturday includes a mountain climb outside Madrid that offers Contador's pursuers one last opportunity to seize the red jersey from the 2008 winner.