Ottawa cyclist Michael Woods improves to 7th in Spanish Vuelta

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Canadian cyclist Michael Woods improved to seventh overall in the Spanish Vuelta after Stage 17 on Wednesday. 

The Ottawa native also finished seventh in the stage, which featured a steep climb up Los Machucos in northern Spain. Austria’s Stefan Denifl won the stage, finishing 28 seconds ahead of Spaniard Alberto Contador.

Great Britain’s Chris Froome, coming off a comfortable time-trial victory on Tuesday, was struggling as he rode up the steep hill at the end of the 180.5-kilometrer stage.

The Tour de France winner finished 14th and lost 42 seconds of his overall lead, which now stands at 1 minute, 16 seconds over Vincenzo Nibali of Italy. Wilco Kelderman of the Netherlands is third, more than two minutes behind Froome, while Woods sits 6:33 off the pace

“It’s still a good position to be in,” said Froome, who is seeking his first Vuelta title. “I think we always knew today was going to be a though final and it certainly was. I am feeling good and we look forward to the next three days. Of course it’s never nice to lose time, but I still feel good. There’s just three days left and I hope we can get the job done.”

Three-time Vuelta winner Contador, who is retiring from cycling after this year’s Vuelta made up more than a minute on Froome but remained fifth overall. Contador sits more than three minutes from the lead with four stages left.

Thursday’s 18th stage will take riders 169 kilometres from Suances to Santo Toribio de Liebana. The Vuelta ends Sunday in Madrid.