The race ton Sunday climbed to Lagos de Covadonga, where the English rider gained more time on some of his rivals including Movistar duo Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana. On Monday, he and the Vuelta caravan enjoy a rest day before the Tuesday time trial to Torrelavega and the start of the third and final week.
“Maybe we will know more after the time trial,” Yates said.
“It’s very possible [the Vuelta could be decided in the time trail], I hope to have a good ride. I have been improving slowly in the time trials, but gaps are very small, so it’s hard to see one rider better than another.”
Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) time trial the best out of the top classification men left, but they slipped out of the overall picture. In the tight group at the front end, Mitchelton quietly say that Yates could be the best.
Yates leads the race by 26 seconds over Valverde, 33 over Quintana, 43 over Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana). Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) is at 1-29 minutes.
“Of guys really close to me, best time triallist? I think Valverde is very strong. I’m not 100 per cent, the smaller guys are at a very similar level. I need to see the parcours before we know for sure.”
The Mitchelton-Scott team explained the 32-kilometre stage is technical, which could be to the climbers’ advantage.
Yates is emerging as the star in the 2018 Vuelta. On stage 15 in the red leader’s jersey, he marked moves by Lopez and Quintana and made his own. Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) won the stage with a long attack and Lopez, not an immediate threat to Yates, snuck away for some seconds.
The aggressive riding, however, netted Yates six seconds on Valverde and eight on Quintana.
“I’m always confident in my own ability and I hope to continue like this, but gaps are still small. I’m not exactly a level above everybody else, we’re all very close,” Yates continued.
“Both of those Movistar riders are very strong, both big champions, to say which one is better, I don’t know. We will know more after the time trial on Tuesday.”