Erviti outsprints Roche to take Stage 18; Contador still leads

LAS ROZAS, Spain -- Imanol Erviti
took the first stage win of his career by beating Ireland's
Nicolas Roche in a drawn-out sprint finish to Stage 18 of the
Tour of Spain on Thursday.

The Caisse D'Epargne rider beat Roche by less than half a
wheel's width. David Herrero of Spain was third, one second

Erviti, of Spain, and Roche were part of a day-long, 18-man break, and
went clear in the last mile of the stage from Valladolid.

"It was so close I didn't dare imagine I had won, so I
didn't raise my arms," Erviti said.
"This is my first pro win, so to take it in a major tour is
something very important for me."

Erviti, 24, paid tribute to his teammate Jose Vicente Garcia
Acosta, who was also in the breakaway group.

"At least half of this win belongs to him. Between us we
chased down dangerous moves right up until the finish," Erviti said. "There were some very dangerous customers in the attack,
including [world champion] Paolo Bettini [of Italy], but the two
of us made it into the break of the day and this victory is our
reward for being so attentive."

Alberto Contador of Spain continues as race leader for a
sixth successive day.

With three stages remaining until Sunday's finish in Madrid,
the 25-year-old Astana rider has an advantage of 1 minute, 17
seconds over teammate Levi Leipheimer of the United States. Spain's Carlos Sastre is third, 3:41 behind.