Monday (August 23) marked the first day off for the peloton in this year’s Spanish Grand Tour, giving teams the chance to analyse their performance from the first nine days of racing.
With two weeks still to ride in the Vuelta, Jumbo-Visma leader Roglič leads the race by 28 seconds to Enric Mas of Movistar, while Ineos Grenadiers leaders Yates and Bernal both sit around two minutes down in the general classification.
Speaking during a video press conference on the first rest day Yates, who is racing his first Grand Tour in Ineos colours, said: “I've been pretty consistent throughout the whole race
“On all the real mountain stages I've been up there. I feel like I'm being quite consistent. It's about trying to keep that consistency for the whole three weeks. It's been a hard nine stages, not just for us but for everyone. Hopefully we can try and do something in the last two weeks.”
Yates put in his signature style of attacks on stage nine to Alto de Velefique, just before the first rest day, but he was comfortably matched by double Vuelta winner Roglič, who eventually went on the attack and gained more time.
British hopeful Yates said: “It was a really tough stage.
“We had a plan, we pushed the pace, we tried to wear down the group, try and get rid of some of Jumbo's riders, but they stepped it up as a team.
"It didn't work out as we planned. On the very last climb I tried to be aggressive early, and Egan was going to sit in the wheels and stay with the best guys. We did the best we could and it's not easy. It's been a hard nine stages, every day has been stressful, every day has been a fight. We need to keep plugging away and doing our best.”
On Roglič’s form, Yates added: “He looked pretty solid. We saw yesterday he was probably the strongest guy there.
“In the final he got away with Mas, so I don't think he's going too bad to be honest.”
The winner of the 2021 Vuelta won’t be decided until the final day however, after the finish of the 33km time trial, a discipline that Roglič thrives in having just won the Olympic TT last month.
On how much time Roglič’s rivals would need over the Slovenian heading into the final TT, Yates said: “A lot [of time], but that's not just us, that's everybody in the top 10, they need at least two minutes. He's the Olympic champion. Everyone needs some time. We're not going to be the only ones that try and isolate him (you'd hope anyway).”
Yates currently sits sixth overall with 12 stages still to race, 2-07 down to Roglič, having lost time after being caught behind a crash on stage two and having struggled in the heat on the punchy uphill finish on stage six.
Bernal, winner of the 2021 Giro d’Italia, sits just one place ahead of his team-mate Yates on general classification, 1-52 off the race lead.
Speaking on the rest day, the Colombian star said: “I feel confident because I know that I'm not too far to back, I can do my own pace.
“If I race intelligently and do what I need to do maybe I can race a good GC, even if I'm not 100 per cent.”
Bernal has admitted that he’s not in his best form, having already won a Grand Tour this year and after catching coronavirus shortly after his victory in Italy.
He said his climbing form is still good, but added that he’s missing some of the acceleration needed to stick with a strong all-rounder like Roglič: “The Giro was my big objective for this year. I wanted to prepare well for the Vuelta but I caught Covid.
“It's normal to be missing something, but it's not too bad. I'm up there but I need to keep trying and hopefully I will move one step up.”
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