Colombia's Lopez marks 2nd victory in Vuelta a España

George Bennett has abandoned the Vuelta a Espana after 11 stages

Froome finished fifth, 47 seconds back, but with the same time as title rival Esteban Chaves and six seconds ahead of 2010 Vuelta victor Vincenzo Nibali, who now trails the Team Sky rider by one minute and one second ahead of Monday's final rest day.

Nibali finished six seconds down while Alberto Contador, who attacked with Lopez, paid the price, losing 40sec.

Froome pulled away from his rivals on the Puig Llorenca climb to win the stage by four seconds, and by adding bonus seconds he led by 36 seconds overall at that point. The Italian now trails Froome by 55 seconds. "There are many hard stages to go".

If stage 16 is all down to Froome, stage 15 was as much about his supporting cast, with Team Sky's domestiques giving their leader unstinting support on the short but punishing 129.5km stage from Alcala la Real.

On one of the brief sections of respite, Stage 5 victor Alexey Lutsenko attacked and slipped the field, although he did the same with his gears at just the wrong time, whilst the main group was now about 30 thanks to the relentless work on the front of Quick-Step's aforementioned riders, with a split between the two sections of the peloton. "There were a lot of big attacks today, but they stayed with me and controlled the speed", Froome said. I think it was the right decision, we've kept the energy for the stage tomorrow [Sunday], " responded Froome.

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Triple stage victor on the Tour de France, Majka had already picked the color last weekend, but he had failed in 3rd place at the 8th step.

Wilco Kelderman moved into third place overall at 2:17 behind Froome.

Monday is the second rest day for the three-week race, which heads north on Tuesday with an individual time trial.

He then overtook Adam Yates, taking the lead in the stage at only five kilometers from the finish in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

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