Chris Froome believes he has taken a huge step towards winning the Vuelta a Espana after a gruelling mountain finish on stage 11.

The British rider was second over the line in Calar Alto, but gained big time over his closest GC challengers who struggled in the unusually wet conditions.

Esteban Chaves lost almost two minutes to drop back to third overall, while Nicolas Roche was more than four minutes adrift as he plummeted from third in the standings to 11th.

Froome now has a 79 second advantage over Vincenzo Nibali in the general classification and is a red-hot favourite to win the race for the first time in his career to make it a Vuelta-Tour de France double.

“I think given the time gaps today, this is definitely going to be one of the crucial stages that shaped this Vuelta a España,” the Team Sky rider said afterwards.

“I’m really pleased with how today went and I think this is a huge step towards securing my position and my lead at the Vuelta.”

The race continues for 10 more stages until the finale in Madrid on September 10.