Simon Yates (Mitchelton Scott) has said that he doesn’t feel like he is the dominant rider at the Vuelta a Espana, despite winning on Les Praeres and taking the red jersey for the second time in the race. The Mitchelton-Scott rider heads into the final stage of the second week to Lagos de Covadonga with a 20-second lead over Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, and is a further five seconds ahead of Nairo Quintana.
“We’ve only had one long climb before tomorrow, on stage 9, so tomorrow is a different kind of effort,” Yates told reporters after the stage. “If I have the same legs as I did today then I’ll be happy. The team was very strong again today but I don’t feel like I’m dominating. The gaps are still small and the GC is still very close. We have a long way to go.”
Yates returned to the top of the standings when he attacked an already select group of favourites inside the final kilometre. Until then, he had been holding station and reacting to the moves of others as the gradients really ramped up near the top. Movistar, in particular, had strength in numbers with both Valverde and Quintana in the front group, and Giro d’Italia stage winner Richard Carapaz for assistance. Yates admitted afterwards that he had been concerned by the number of Movistar jerseys but did his best to focus on his own efforts.
“They had a big advantage in numbers, which I was a bit nervous about. It was ok. I did my own race and I chose my own moment to attack,” Yates explained. “I knew nothing of the climb, except for a video that I watched and a few pictures that I saw this morning. That’s why I was very conservative at the bottom because I wasn’t sure if the climb was much steeper or shallower, so it was difficult to judge the effort. I stayed calm and waited for the moment to attack.”
There is still one day to go and a challenging ride up the 11-kilometre Lagos de Covadonga in a stage 15 that contains almost 4,000 metres of ascent in total, but Yates looks set to end the second week of the Vuelta in the same place as he finished it at the Giro d’Italia – in the race lead. While the position in the overall classification is the same, physically Yates says that he has been in a different place compared to May.
“I haven’t really [changed anything]. I’m the same rider, the same person, I have the same name. It was really just my preparation coming into the race,” he explained. “I came in with much different preparation. I’m looking to build form here, into the third week onwards and into the World Championships. At the Giro, I arrived in form and ready for day one. We’ll see how that goes. There’s still a long way to go but I’m feeling good.”
While Simon Yates has been at the forefront of the race, his twin brother Adam has been keeping a low profile in the opening two weeks of the Vuelta a Espana. Adam finished over 15 minutes behind his brother on Les Praeres and sits an hour and a half down on him in the overall standings. Simon says that he is confident in his brother’s form will be there to help him in the coming stages.
“Maybe,” he said when asked if the team was saving Adam for the final week. “He’s feeling good and he will be there in the next few days, especially tomorrow I believe. He’s feeling good and there are no concerns there.”