Yates puts his troubles behind him to take the win
What a year it’s been for the Yates family. Firstly Simon finishes seventh overall at Paris-Nice, but subsequently it turns out he’s failed a drugs test for an asthma medication that his team were supposed to file a TUE for.
Now, Simon adds the family’s first Grand Tour stage win in dramatic fashion in Luintra, breaking away in the final kilometres and riding away from the rest of the peloton.
The celebration when he crossed the finish line showed just how much it means to Yates to be back where he belongs, and the relief that he’s managed to get a big win under his belt so soon after his ban was clear to see.
Mathias Frank probably deserved more than seventh place
Before Yates put in his winning dig it was IAM Cycling leader Mathias Frank who did much of the grunt work at the front of the race.
Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) was out on his own at the front for a good while, but when his legs deserted him Frank took advantage from the small chase group to launch an attack of his own.
While it was only fellow members of the breakaway bearing down on Fraile, Frank knew that the peloton would be hot on his tail in the final 20km of the race.
He could see the bunch when he looked over his shoulder with just a 25 second gap, but instead of giving up he got out of the saddle and upped his efforts once more.
There was little he could do about the late attacks from Yates and co, including another impressive ride by Fabio Felline to finish third, but Frank managed to stay in front of the main group by just a handful of seconds.
Valverde is in this for the long haul
Adam Hansen has made his name by riding all three Grand Tours each year, but Alejandro Valverde could join him by completing all three in this calendar year.
But unlike domestique Hansen, Valverde has been hunting top-10 finishes in each of the three-week races this year, with two of them already to his name.
Even by his own ridiculous standards, this season has been pretty incredible for the 36-year-old, completing both the Giro d’Italia (finishing third) and Tour de France (sixth), as well as two of the three Ardennes Classics.
He’s won La Fleche Wallonne, Ruta del Sol and Vuelta Castilla y Leon, come third in the Clasica San Sebastian, 10th in Strade Bianche and even travelled to Brazil to complete the Olympic road race.
Now he’s straight back into the swing of it to claim three top 10 places in the first five individual stages of the race. There’s just no letting up.
Has anyone ever scored top 10s in all three Grand Tours in a calendar year? Answers on a postcard please.
Omar Fraile still loves a breakaway
If you remember back to the 2015 Vuelta a España, you’ll recall that Omar Fraile, then riding for Caja Rural, had pretty much wrapped up the mountains classification by the end of the second week.
The Spaniard couldn’t help getting in breakaways and he was up to his old tricks again on stage six to the Sacred River.
The Dimension Data man looked as if he could go all the way as he powered off on his own, but the pressure of riding alone finally got to him at the top of the penultimate climb, when he was overtaken by Frank.
It was a sign of just how hard he rode while out the front that he finished some 13 minutes down on stage winner Yates. But expect to see Fraile’s black and white jersey at the front sometime soon.
The GC leaders have to save something for stage eight’s finish
Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and co all had a pretty straightforward day in the saddle on stage six, but the end of stage eight will have seen some of them trying to save whatever they could in their legs.
Stage seven is another rolling stage, but the summit finish on stage eight will really sort the men from the boys.
After a virtually flat first 175km, riders face a five kilometre wall at the end with the vicious climb to La Camperona. The kick up starts immediately, with gradients of 25 per cent, shallowing out for almost a kilometre before sitting at around 20 per cent for the rest of the brutal climb.
With Valverde working so well at the front to force the pace, riders like Froome and Alberto Contador will have to be wary not to lose time on Friday’s stage seven, but whatever they can keep in their legs for Saturday will come in handy.