Yates lights up Vuelta GC battle with long-range attack
Simon Yates launches a long-range attack in the Vuelta's 14th stage to surge into overall podium contention
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GOURETTE, France (VN) — Simon Yates (Orica – BikeExchange) lit up the Vuelta a España with a long-distance strike Saturday in stage 14 across the French Pyrenees to surge into podium contention.
The 24-year-old Yates, who won a stage in the Vuelta’s first week, bounded away on the day’s third of four climbs in what looked to be a suicide move. Incredibly, he had the legs to hold off the attacking GC leaders Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Chris Froome (Sky) to climb into fourth overall, now 2:17 back.
“We made a plan at the start, and we executed it to how we wanted it,” Yates told reporters at the summit. “I was pretty tired there, and I am not even sure how it worked out.”
It worked out pretty damn good. Yates attacked solo, and then reeled in rider after rider in the day’s main breakaway to finish fifth in the stage at 39 seconds behind winner Robert Gesink (LottoNL – Jumbo), taking 1:08 out of Quintana and Chris Froome (Sky). And heavy pressure from Orica and others saw Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) tumble from third to 19th, opening the door for Orica’s Esteban Chaves to move up to third place, now 2:01 back.
“I gave it full gas, and it is what it is,” Yates said. “There were a lot of riders up the road, it’s normal that guys are tired. I was in the bunch all day, and I was fresher [in the end].”
Yates crossed the line exhausted from the effort, and sat down on the ground for minutes as he recovered from the intense effort.
The surge reinvigorated his GC aspirations, and he climbed from seventh to fourth, knocking on the podium door. Everyone took notice, including race leader Quintana.
“These are young riders who are truly a threat,” Quintana said of Yates and Chaves. “We gave them a bit of liberty because they were not so much in the GC picture today, but we know that we can’t give them one second more.”
Yates’ turn is just the latest in what’s been a phenomenal Vuelta so far for the Orica team. Yates won stage 6 and teammate Jens Keukeleire won stage 13 into Bilbao on Thursday. With a hard final week still to come, Yates and Chaves will be nipping at the toes of Froome and Quintana for a spot on the podium.