Mitchelton-Scott unleashed their ‘secret weapon’ Adam Yates on the final climb of the Vuelta a España stage 17 to defend his twin brother Simon’s red jersey.
The Yates twins rode together along with team-mate Jack Haig to close down attacks from general classification rivals on the lower slopes of the brutal ascent to Balcón de Balkaia.
Simon was able to defend his race lead, losing only eight seconds to second place Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Further up the road, EF Education First-Drapac’s Michael Woods battled hard against breakaway survivors to conquer the gradients up to 24% and take the stage win.
Race leader Simon Yates said: “We employed our secret weapon in Adam over the last kilometres, that’s why we’ve been saving him for this final section of the race and Jack was around the mark also.
“The whole team were there today, and they did a fantastic job.
“I lost a few seconds in the sprint there in the end. It’s no shame to lose a few seconds to Valverde in a sprint and I put time into a few other people, so all in all it was a good day.”
Adam Yates, who dropped out of overall contention early in the race, moved to the front of the group of GC favourites on the final climb, with twin brother Simon in tow.
The move forced a number of contenders off the back of the group and Mitchelton-Scott neutralised any attacks before they could take off.
Valverde kicked in the final kilometre and only Quick-Step Floors’ Enric Mas was able to follow, with Yates finishing just behind.
The big losers of the day were Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), who came in together more than a minute down on Valverde.
Kruijswijk has now dropped of the podium spot he stole after Tuesday’s time trial.
The peloton faces a 186km flat stretch on Thursday – one for the sprinters – with two more GC days remaining before the finish in Madrid on Sunday.
Looking ahead to the final days of racing, 26-year-old Yates said: “We expect aggressive, attacking racing from Valverde and Movistar – I don’t think he knows any other way to ride and he has a strong team around him.
“Of all the stages left I was most afraid of this one, but there’s still a lot of hard racing to come.
“[Thursday] should be a sprint day and we can hopefully take it a bit easier, although you never know, and then we have Andorra.
“I think those stages will suit me better than today, but we’ll see.”
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