Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) took the overall lead of the Vuelta a España by a solitary second on the stage nine finish to La Covatilla, but says it’s difficult to know what he’s learned from the Giro d’Italia, where he lead the race for 12 stages.
The Brit cracked while in pink at the Giro, losing the jersey to Chris Froome (Team Sky) after his 80km solo attack to the finish on stage 19.
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Yates says he still doesn’t know why he crumbled so early on the climb of the Colle delle Finestre on that stage, making it difficult to apply any lessons learned to his current lead in the Vuelta.
“Being in the leader’s jersey is becoming a little but familiar now and of course I am very happy,” Yates said, “but like I said it wasn’t expected so as far as a game plan I will have to sit down with the team and discuss how we approach being in the jersey over the next few days.
“It’s difficult to say what I learned from the Giro d’Italia because I still don’t know why I cracked and if I did I would have learned a very valuable lesson, but we don’t know yet and that’s OK because every race is different.”
The 26-year-old can now enjoy Monday’s rest day with the red jersey by one second over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), before three flatter stages to come ahead of three consecutive summit finishes on stages 13, 14 and 15.
Despite taking the overall lead in the Vuelta, Yates wasn’t able to stay with the strongest of the GC contenders on the La Covatilla, losing nine seconds to a trio of Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) after they had broken clear with around two kilometres to go. Ben King (Dimension Data) won the stage from a breakaway after attacking solo from around 19km to go.
With Valverde finishing further back at 15 seconds on the stage, and overall leader Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) dropped early on the climb, Yates was able to move into lead, although admits “it was a bit of a surprise” to be collecting red at the end of the day.
“It wasn’t expected for me to be in the leader’s jersey at the end of the stage today,” Yates said.
“I was just trying to follow the best guys in the race and I was a little bit behind by a few seconds, so it is a bit of a surprise, but I am happy. A good surprise.”
“On the final climb, it was exposed, and I would say the wind was a factor today, but not as much as we anticipated. I had watched a video from 2011 and that looked like the wind caused more damage than anything else, but it wasn’t as strong as that today.