Vuelta a Espana

Valverde, Mas cannot answer Yates

The Spanish duo of youngster Enric Mas and veteran Alejandro Valverde see hopes of winning their home tour ride up the road in Andorra.

Spanish hopes of victory at the Vuelta a España took a blow Friday on stage 19 in Andorra.

Overnight leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) tightened his grip on the overall lead following a well-timed attacked with 10km to go on the one-climb La Rabassa summit finale.

Spain’s top riders both ceded important terrain. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) remained in second overall, but slipped to 1:38 back after starting the day at just 25 seconds adrift. Highly touted Enric Mas (Quick-Step), who started the day in third, fell off the podium into fourth, now 2:15 back.

“Now it’s going to be more difficult, but you cannot just give up,” Valverde said. “I felt a little bit tired today. The body doesn’t always respond the same.”

If Movistar was hoping to catch Yates in a trap, it backfired Saturday. Nairo Quintana followed an early move from Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) with 13km to go and later could not provide much help to Valverde when Yates jumped across. The Colombian fell back to 4:01 in arrears.

Yates astutely jumped out of the GC group with 10km to join Kruijswijk, Quintana, and eventual stage-winner Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). Valverde faltered and then quickly started to bleed time.

“It got complicated when Yates attacked,” Valverde said. “I had Carapaz with me, but we were not able to close the gap. Later it just got even more complicated.”

Enric Mas
Quick-Step’s Enric Mas lost his spot in the top-three overall on the Vuelta’s stage 19 summit finish. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Mas, 23, said he didn’t have the legs to follow either.

“The legs didn’t respond the way I hoped,” Mas said. “Anything can still happen. Let’s see.”

Saturday’s penultimate stage is less than 100km and features six rated climbs, finishing atop the Coll de la Gallina.

Yates recently relocated to Andorra and said he feels comfortable on local roads.

Movistar will have to be hoping for a complete collapse from Yates, who took the race by the scruff of the neck Friday.