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Vuelta a Espana

Yates faces critical TT test in bid to win Vuelta

The Mitchelton-Scott rider leads the race by 26 seconds heading into Tuesday's time trial.

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SANTANDER, Spain (VN) — Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) faces a “very important” time trial Tuesday in his quest to win the Vuelta a España in Madrid.

On Monday’s second rest day, the Mitchelton-Scott team went for a ride along the coast and stopped for a coffee in Santander. Yates, however, got in the team car and traveled with the sport directors to ride the 32-kilometer time trial route to Torrelavega.

“Everybody is close,” race leader Yates said of the general classification battle. “The gaps are small and I would not take somebody to be the out-and-out favorite because the differences have been one or two seconds. The time trial may be very important.”

Yates wears the red leader’s jersey with a 26-second lead over Alejandro Valverde, 33 seconds over Valverde’s Movistar teammate Nairo Quintana, and 43 seconds over Miguel Angel López (Astana). Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) sits fifth at 1:29 behind.

The 26-year-old Englishman came close to winning the Giro d’Italia in May. He attacked at every chance to gain time on his stronger time trial rivals Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome. He led the race for 13 days, but the efforts caused him to crack with only two days remaining.

Tuesday’s Vuelta time trial, and of course the mountains ahead, will be instrumental to Yates’s grand tour win if he is to stand on the podium in the red jersey when the race reaches Madrid on Sunday.

“It depends on a lot of things. How my legs are and how I go in the day, my rivals. A lot of us are also very close in the time trial. I think Valverde can probably take the most time. After that, maybe it’s Thibaut Pinot or Steven Kruijswijk. We will see but it is going to be difficult,” Yates said.

“I am always confident in my own abilities and I think I have a great TT, even if everyone else disagrees. I have been slowly improving year by year. I will do the best I can and if I don’t lose too much time then happy days, but if it’s losing 10 minutes then that’s also OK because that’s the best I can do.”

Yates does not look back at the Giro with regrets. He and the team said they had to race aggressive from day one to have a chance of winning the overall against Dumoulin and Froome. After Yates dropped from first to 21st, Froome took the lead and Dumoulin maintained second place.

“I did everything I could do there. I finished empty and I could not give anymore,” Yates said of the Giro. “I don’t have regrets about it. I did the best I could do.”

Sport director Matt White said, “He’s naturally a very aggressive rider, and we have to hold him back sometimes.”

Yates agreed, but said he cannot change his style too much.

Yates won the Les Praeres stage Saturday and in Sunday’s stage 15 to Lagos de Covadonga, he placed third for the bonus seconds on his rivals behind.

“It’s hard to change your style since you have been doing that since you were a child,” Yates continued. “If you have the legs and the opportunity as they’re normally, you have to take it.

“It’s very hard to change that mindset and be way more conservative. Sometimes I find it more difficult but here it has been OK and it’s only been in the last couple of days that I’ve opened the taps a bit more.”