Even with an overnight margin of one minute and 38 seconds, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was never confident of sealing the Vuelta a España title on the final meaningful day of racing in Andorra. How could he be, after what had happened at the Giro d’Italia?
“Yesterday I had a good ride but I truly didn’t believe I could pull it off,” he revealed as he sat down for the Vuelta winner’s press conference, which traditionally takes place the day before the ceremonial final stage into Madrid.
“I was nervous at the beginning because you just never know, on a stage like today, what could happen.”
Indeed, despite Yates’ seeming superiority, a stage that crammed six climbs into 97 kilometres at the very end of a Grand Tour always had the potential for a late plot twist. But the 26-year-old, showing that attack is his best form of defense for a second day in a row, only extended his lead as Alejandro Valverde fell away on the final climb and the drama was reduced to the battle for the minor podium positions.
“It was a ferocious day, from the very beginning,” Yates said, “but my team were fantastic. I had support until the very last moment with Adam. At that point I was more confident of keeping the jersey. It’s just a really unbelievable day.”
Yates will have his day in the sun when the Vuelta finishes in Madrid on Sunday, but there’s a sense that this victory is only the start. A key question on everyone’s minds was what comes next. Would head for the Tour de France next year as one of the big favourites, or would he replicate the Giro-Vuelta approach?
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