Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) went solo on the 16.2-kilometer, 5.7% Alto de Hazallanas climb and descended to victory in Granada on the Ruta’s punchy 120km mountain stage, Saturday. Overnight leader Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) couldn’t hold the pace on a day for the climbers, allowing Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang to move into the overall lead.

“I’m not high up on GC so I thought I’d have a bit more freedom and we wanted to put pressure on Astana and the other teams. We didn’t really want to ride behind so I went early and the selection was made and then the rest of the racing it sorted itself out,” said Yates.

“I never normally win this early in the season, I had a really good winter so I hope to continue that trend and keep it going,” the winner continued.

The stage was set to make a major impact on the overall race, due to its short length and inclusion of a category one and a category two climb before the huge Alto de Hazallanas.

Yates attacked from a lead group of 10 on the Hazallanas and went over the summit with a 47-second advantage. A chase group made up of Fuglsang, Ion Izaguirre, Pello Bilbao (both Astana), Steven Kruiswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and Sergio Higuta (Equipo Euskadi) followed him down the mountain, however, Yates held time on the descent and remained strong in the final flat 5km to take the win by 26 seconds.

Higuta led home the sprint for second, and Kruiswijk took third, denying Mitchelton-Scott two spots on the podium. Adam Yates finished fourth.

The rolling final stage of the race from Otura to Alhaurin de la Torre on Spain’s south coast is far from straightforward and looks set for a breakaway. Astana will be looking to control the race and protect both GC-leader Fuglsang as well as teammate Izagirre, who is second overall at seven seconds. Kruijswijk is third overall at 11 seconds. Astana also have Bilbao in contention for overall victory in fourth on GC, at 21 seconds. Wellens is now nearly three minutes off the lead.