VERBANIA, Italy (AP) Alberto Contador increased his lead on the 18th stage of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday with a well-timed attack on the leg's big climb, while former world champion Philippe Gilbert posted his second victory in this year's race.
A member of an early breakaway, Gilbert required just over four hours to complete the 170-kilometer (106-mile) leg from Melide, Switzerland, to Verbania, which included one top-category climb shortly before the finish.
Astana riders Mikel Landa and Fabio Aru fell behind due to a crash before the climb to Monte Ologno, and that's when Contador attacked, riding by himself for most of the ascent and opening up a significant gap from the other contenders.
Contador extended his lead over Landa to 5 minutes, 15 seconds, with Aru third, 6:05 behind.
''I've been working to win this race for four months and every day I'm getting closer,'' Contador said.
Stage 19 and 20 are both grueling mountain legs, before Sunday's finish in Milan.
Contador is attempting to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and Tour de France in the same year.
A two-time Tour champion, Contador won the Giro in 2008 and was also triumphant in Milan in 2011 but was stripped of that title for testing positive in the 2010 Tour.
Gilbert won the world title in 2012 and also has titles in many single-day classics. The Belgian rider also won Stage 12.
Two other members of the breakaway, Francesco Bongiorno and Sylvain Chavanel, finished second and third, 47 seconds and 1:01 behind Gilbert, respectively.
Contador finished 6:05 behind while Landa and Aru were 7:18 back.
Damiano Cunego, the 2004 winner, fell and withdrew early on while with the breakaway.