The British climber tried to hit out on stage three, the first summit finish of the race on Pićon Blanco, hoping to redeem himself after the disappointment of a “silly crash the previous day.”
But headwinds near the summit neutralised Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), who had to settle for a strong finish amongst the general classification group.
Speaking after the stage, the 29-year-old from Bury said: “I was really disappointed after yesterday, losing time in a silly crash. So today I really wanted to do something. I tried quite a few times but there was a block headwind up here, so no matter what you did you weren’t going very far. It is what it is.
"In the end I’ve trained well, prepared well. I really struggled after the Olympics with the jet lag. It took me a week or two just to get back into the routine. Now here we are and I just hope it continues.
"We have cards to play. I lost some time yesterday but I’m still in the game. Hopefully we can just keep plugging away."
Yates was caught behind a late crash on stage two of the Vuelta, the first sprint opportunity of the race, eventually shipping 31 seconds to the peloton by the line.
On stage three he proved he still had climbing legs, finishing eighth on the stage surrounded by the GC favourites, including Primož Roglič.
Yates now sits 16th overall after the third day of racing, around 50 seconds behind Roglič, who is still the best-place of the GC riders.
Ineos Grenadiers can still rely on Egan Bernal however, who sits ninth overall, around 27 seconds behind Roglič.
The race continues with a pan-flat sprint opportunity on stage five.
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