Belgium's Remco Evenepoel won his third stage on this year's Vuelta a España and all-but sealed the polka dot jersey ©Getty Images

Belgium's Remco Evenepoel claimed a solo victory on stage 18 of the Vuelta a España, while general classification leader Sepp Kuss regained nine seconds on Jumbo-Visma team-mate and closest challenger Jonas Vingegaard.

American Kuss' lead had been cut to just 8sec by Dane Vingegaard yesterday after the red jersey holder was dropped by the Tour de France winner and another Jumbo-Visma rider in Slovenia's Primož Roglič, the eventual stage winner on the Alto de L'Angliru.

The final mountains stage featured five categorised climbs on the 179 kilometres route from Pola de Allande to La Cruz de Linares.

Last year's overall Vuelta winner Evenepoel of Soudal-Quick-Step has fallen out of general classification, but did all-but make sure of the polka dot jersey for the mountains classification after leading on the first climb, the 9.9km category one Puerto de San Lorenzo averaging at 8.6 per cent.

He finished the day with 129 mountains classification points, with Vingegaard his closest challenger on 51, meaning Evenepoel only has to safely complete the final three stages to make sure he takes the jersey.

Evenepoel found himself in the breakaway, and broke clear of his rivals on the first of two climbs of the Puerto de La Cruz de Linares, an 8.3km ascent averaging at 8.6 per cent gradient.

He was able to add a third stage victory on this year's Vuelta in 4hours 47min 37sec, beating his nearest rival Damiano Caruso of Italy and Team Bahrain Victorious by 4min 44sec.

Denmark's Andreas Kron of Lotto-Dstny completed the stage podium at 5:10 off the pace, beating Britain's Max Poole of Team DSM-Firmenich by two seconds.

The peloton finished 9:29 back, with Kuss finishing 10th, and Roglič ending with the same time.

Vingegaard eased up to finish nine seconds further back in 13th and extend Kuss' lead to 17sec.

Roglič in third in the general classification remains 1:08 behind Kuss, with fourth-placed Juan Ayuso of Spain and UAE Team Emirates finishing eighth for the stage in the same time as the overall leader and remaining 4:00 adrift.

Kuss thanked his Jumbo-Visma team-mates for their help in the stage.

American Sepp Kuss is now 17sec clear of team-mate Jonas Vingegaard with three stages of the Vuelta a España remaining ©Getty Images
American Sepp Kuss is now 17sec clear of team-mate Jonas Vingegaard with three stages of the Vuelta a España remaining ©Getty Images

"First of all, the guys did a really great job, pulling the whole day and then on the last two laps on this finishing climb, Jan [Tratnik of Slovenia] came back and he was riding super for us and then Jonas did a really good pace from the bottom," he said.

"I was a little bit scared because he’s so strong.

"He really rode super for me.

"Today we rode a more defensive tactic.

"Within the team and within the three of us, there was the tactics we had agreed on for the Angliru, and then what strategy we wanted to follow through after that stage.

"It’s always changing and there’s always some mistakes here and there but it’s always within measure.

"[Winning] is getting closer."

Stage 19 is a flat 177.5km route from La Bañeza to Íscar, after which there are only two days remaining before the Vuelta concludes in Madrid on Sunday (September 17).