Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) learned his lesson in the Giro d'Italia, that he cannot try to defend the Vuelta a España's red leader's jersey at all costs.
On Wednesday, the young but experienced Englishman and his team calculated the gaps to an attack by Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). They saw their lead shrink, but were prepared to let it to go to Pinot if needed.
"Of course he is a danger," Yates said of Pinot. "We closed it down several times before he got away. We cannot control it all day and we had to take some risks sometimes, and that was the risk we took."
The Frenchman gained 12 seconds only. At one point, though, he looked as though he would take over the Vuelta lead or at least move into second overall.
Yates comes to the Vuelta after a successful Giro d'Italia, but one where he ultimately slipped out of the lead. He held the pink jersey for 13 days and won three stages before cracking on stage 19 and seeing Chris Froome (Sky) ride away to the eventual overall win.
A "confident" Mitchelton-Scott with twin bother Adam Yates wisely managed the multiple attacks on stage 11. Their strength savings, letting Team Movistar take up the chase, will help them when the race enters the high mountains.
"We were confident. The team did a good job in the first 100km. It was a very chaotic and hard start, which is what we were expecting," Yates said.
"Afterwards, Team Movistar chased because they have to. We don't have enough guys to control the race for over 100km. They had the best two guys there."
Pinot still sits 16th overall at 2-20 minutes. The "crazy stage" brought a smile to his face even if the gains were limited by Team Movistar. The team rode to defend its second and third spots with Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana, and ultimately keep Pinot out of the battle for the overall victory.
"It was a crazy stage, I tried it all, it didn't work out but I tried," Pinot said. "It was a tactical game, game of poker, a nice stage.
"My legs are very good and I wanted the stage win, that's always been my objective. Anyway, it's nice to race like that, a real pleasure, and we'll see what happens later on GC."
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