Vuelta a España (st. 14)
Alejandro Valverde (3rd) comes just few meters short to victory, climbs back to 2nd overall; Nairo Quintana (5th) resists in incredible Nava slopes, remains in third. Yates (MTS) wins, gets red jersey back.
Simon Yates (MTS) got back to the GC lead of the 2018 Vuelta a España atop Les Praeres (Nava), the astonishing final climb of stage fourteen (171km), following another big effort from the Movistar Team to keep the race under control and fight for both the day’s win and the red jersey with its two leaders, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde.
After effective pacing work behind the early break by Imanol Erviti and Daniele Bennati, who managed their energy perfectly through the climbs of San Isidro (Cat-2), Colladona (Cat-1) and Mozqueta (Cat-1), a strong stint at the front by Bahrain-Merida, into the Colladiella descent and all over the Falla de los Lobos (Cat-3), squeezed the group to leave only 30 riders in the lead, with red jersey holder Jesús Herrada (COF) dropped back and quickly losing ground.
The race thus got to the steep last 4km uphill with only the top guns together. Another nice piece of support from Richard Carapaz helped Alejandro Valverde bring back a move from Steven Kruijswijk (TLJ) and create a gap over the other contenders. In turn, Nairo Quintana accelerated twice to leave that group -with 2km and 1,300 meters to go, respectively-, yet didn’t gain a real advantage as Miguel Ángel López (AST), joining him at both, didn’t cooperate.
Yates eventually got to the finish solo, with a couple of meters over López and Alejandro Valverde, who gets back to 2nd overall -20″ behind the Briton- as Nairo (5th today) remains in 3rd, now 25″ behind the yellow jersey. Sunday will bring the Queen stage of this year’s Vuelta, with 178km that include the Alto de Santo Emiliano (Cat-3) right after the start, plus the two slopes of the Mirador del Fito (Cat-1), prior to the legendary, decisive Lagos de Covadonga (HC).
Alejandro Valverde: “If I’m honest, I’m a bit sad because I’ve got the impression I could have won this one. I was going really werll, but it ran off my control. Sometimes you’re doubtful about your own chances, about being able to keep up with the others’ pace to win. It was hard for me to know I did a mistake today, because I had the energy to go for it yet mistimed my final efforts. I didn’t know the climb well, I thought the final slopes were going to be harder — don’t get me wrong, full credit has to go to Simon, who deserved this victory. It was just that I waited for too long, thinking those slopes were going to be more difficult, but when I wanted to pick up the pace into that ‘sprint’, I was already too far. As I saw López coming from behind, it was all the same if I finished second or third – I just didn’t win.
“After all that, I must say I loved the climb – but that might have been because it went well for me. For me, though, this is less tough than La Camperona. At the initial slopes I went off the front, trying to push and set a good pace, gain some sort of ground so I could help Nairo if he decided to attack. The truth is, these slopes really don’t suit him well at all, he just did everything he could. All main rivals are still pretty much close. Considering it’s going to be a really tough stage tomorrow, with such a different finishing climb – Los Lagos – and it being the third consecutive day in the mountains, anything can happen. Giving the race a deep blow? I don’t know if I’ll be hit by the race instead tomorrow (laughs).”
Nairo Quintana: “In stages like this one, you’ve got to take a shot to win it, and you can either hit your target, like I sort of did yesterday, or miss if, like today. It wasn’t on my plans to lose time today. López didn’t dare taking a small turn when we attacked – he might be doubting about his real condition and keeping that pace, it’s a choice you make at the end, nothing I can argue about. He just chose to continue behind my wheel and at the end, he also put some seconds on me. Tomorrow’s climb is quite different; I think it suits me better. Los Lagos bring me some good memories, it’s beautiful for me to get back, and I hope to be victorious again. It will be a crucial day for those like us, who are aiming for victory in La Vuelta.
“We could see that the other contenders are really strong, and also that yesterday’s result didn’t mean anything when it comes to race hierarchy – they won seconds back while we had put some on them yesterday. There’s a strong man, which is Yates, which we’ll have to fight against. However, we’ve got a strong advantage in Alejandro, always being by our side, and our strategy to defeat him must be based on making him nervous. He just was a bit stronger than us in this specific case, in a very particular stage with difficult descents, splits, accelerations – and an explosive final climb which might not be the best for me. We’ll see how things go tomorrow.”
- 01 Simon Yates Mitchelton-Scott 4h19'27"
- 02 Miguel Ángel López Astana Pro Team +2"
- 03 Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team "
- 05 Nairo Quintana Movistar Team +7"
- 14 Richard Carapaz Movistar Team +56"
- 95 Nelson Oliveira Movistar Team +22'34"
- 96 Winner Anacona Movistar Team "
- 97 Andrey Amador Movistar Team "
- 106 Imanol Erviti Movistar Team +23'49"
- 136 Daniele Bennati Movistar Team +29'33"
- 01 Simon Yates Mitchelton-Scott 59h11'18"
- 02 Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team +20"
- 03 Nairo Quintana Movistar Team +25"
- 24 Richard Carapaz Movistar Team +13'29"
- 71 Winner Anacona Movistar Team +1h17'24"
- 78 Nelson Oliveira Movistar Team +1h23'09"
- 86 Andrey Amador Movistar Team +1h32'42"
- 102 Imanol Erviti Movistar Team +2h02'30"
- 147 Daniele Bennati Movistar Team +2h57'25"