Yates features frequently at the front of these Grand Tours. He had the Giro d’Italia‘s pink jersey for 13 days this May and in the ongoing Vuelta a España, today racing its 14th stage, he wore the red jersey already for four stages. With his stage win, he is back on top.
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“Dominating the Vuelta? No,” Yates said. “We’ve only had one long climb before tomorrow, on stage nine, so tomorrow is a different kind of effort.
“If I have the same legs as I did today then I’ll be happy. The team was very strong again today but I don’t feel like I’m dominating. The gaps are still small and the GC is still very close. We have a long way to go.”
Yates leads by 20 seconds on Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and by 25 seconds over Valverde’s team-mate and 2016 Vuelta winner Nairo Quintana. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) sits fourth at 47 seconds.
The 26-year-old Englishman struck in the final kilometre of the Praeres climb. He had marked Quintana’s move with López, then too his turn.
Quintana began his offensive in the final two kilometres of the Vuelta’s new climb in Asturias. ‘Superman’ López followed and Yates watched from a far. With the one-kilometre kite approaching, Yates shot clear of his other rivals and bridged ahead. Then he went free at 650 metres.
“I knew nothing of the climb, except for a video that I watched and a few pictures that I saw this morning,” Yates added.
“That’s why I was very conservative at the bottom because I wasn’t sure if the climb was much steeper or shallower, so it was difficult to judge the effort. I stayed calm and waited for the moment to attack.”
Yates already took the Vuelta lead in stage nine and held it for few days before he and team Mitchelton let it go to Spaniard Jesus Herrada (Cofidis). With Herrada suffering early today, someone had to take over the red jersey. Yates did so by distancing his rivals and taking the 10-second bonus for the stage 14 win.
The stage comes as the second day of a three-day mountain run closing the second week. Insiders and riders say the 178.2-kilometre stage to Lagos de Covadonga, which climbs for 11.7 kilometres, is the hardest of the three.
“I actually prefer the ones that are much longer,” Yates said. “Days like today are very hard to do, because you’re very close to the limit, the red line. Whereas, on a longer climb, you can really judge your effort a bit more. You’re more in control. I prefer the longer ones.”
Yates dominated the majority of the Giro with three mountain wins and his 13-day run in pink. He came to Spain more cautiously but said nothing changed in his preparation for the grand tour’s third week after the Giro.
“No, I haven’t really [changed anything]. I’m the same rider, the same person, I have the same name,” Yates continued.
“It was really just my preparation coming into the race. I’m building form rather than arriving on day one already in my peak.”