Vuelta a España leader Simon Yates says he is “very wary” of rival Steven Kruijswijk heading into the final mountain stages of the race.
The Dutchman, riding in LottoNL-Jumbo colours, vaulted onto the podium after a stunning time trial display on stage 16.
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Kruijswijk finished just 50 seconds down on stage winner Rohan Dennis, and is now 53 seconds behind Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) in the battle for the red jersey.
Speaking after Tuesday’s TT, British GC hope Yates said: “Kruijswijk has been strong everyday so far and slowly getting better with each stage.
“He’s also normally good in the third week of a Grand Tour and a real diesel engine.
“He’s a good guy and now he’s up to third we’ll have to be very wary of him.”
Yates put in a strong performance to defend his race lead, extending the gap between himself and the chasing Movistar pair Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana.
Finishing 13th on the time trial stage, Yates now sits 33s up on Valverde, 52s on Kruijswijk and has a 1-15 buffer on Quintana.
The 26-year-old said: “I did a really good ride. I was [going] really well in the very beginning and on the hard climbs I had the perfect pacing strategy, but in the final, I was just dying like everybody else and it wasn’t nice.
“33 seconds over Valverde is not that much. I had much more of an advantage in the Giro – over a minute – and we all know how that finished in the end.
“But there’s still a long way to go and we’ll see how tomorrow goes.”
Yates faces another GC battle on Tuesday, as the Vuelta heads to the Basque region.
Riders will take on the 157km stage from Getxo to Balcón de Bizkaia, which ends in a 7.1km first category climb to the finish.
Vuelta a España 2018 stage 16 time trial, Santillana del Mar – Torrelavega (32km)
1. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC, in 37-57
2. Joey Rosskopf (USA) BMC, at 50s
3. Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp) Team Sky, at 50s
4. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 51s
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky, at 51s
6. Enric Nas (Esp) Quick-Step Floor, at 1-03
7. Nelson Oliviera (Por), at 1-05
8. Laurens De Plus (Bel), at 1-07
9. Simon Geschke (Ger) Sunweb, at 1-10
10. Kasper Asgreen (Dnk) Quick-Step, at 1-10
General classification after stage 16
1. Simon Yates (Gbr) Mitchelton-Scott, in 64-52-58
2. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 33s
3. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 52s
4. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 1-15
5. Enric Mas, (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at 1-30
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team, at 1-34
7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 2-53
8. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 3-04
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac, at 3-15
10. Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 4-43