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Vuelta a Espana 2018: Simon Yates wins Stage 14 to regain red jersey

Martin James
8 Sep 2018

Yates catches his rivals napping with impressive turn of speed on Alto Les Praeres leg-breaker

Simon Yates produced a perfectly timed attack to win Stage 14 of the 2018 Vuelta a Espana on Alto Les Praeres and regain the race leader’s red jersey.

Yates took advantage of hesitation from his fellow GC contenders, attacking with 600m remaining and opening a gap that proved impossible to close.

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) came the closest, and finished second, 2 seconds down, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) third.

That barely a kilometre after Lopez and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) had opened a decent gap after a strong Quintana attack on the toughest section of the final climb, but then appeared to start watching each other rather than pressing home their advantage.

Red jersey Jose Herrada trailed in more than 9 minutes down, and falls back to 17th overall. Yates now leads Valverde by 20 seconds going into tomorrow's stage which finishes on the feared Covadonga.

How it happened 

The second of three straight mountaintop finishes packed five climbs into 171km of riding, the most difficult of which was the final ascent to Alto les Praeres, with some ramps going close to 20%.

The early break saw a group of 6 riders go clear and quickly open a lead of around a minute: Nicolas Roche and Brent Bookwalter (both BMC Racing), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Michael Woods (EF-Drapac), Ivan Garcia (Bahrain-Merida) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky).

Kwiatkowski’s high overall position made the move an interesting one – could this be a long punt on getting the red jersey off unheralded leader Herrada’s shoulders?

After a mechanical saw De Gendt drop behind, and Woods fell after miscalculating a downhill bend coming off the 1st category Alto de la Mozqueta (127.1km), Kwiatkowski distanced his one remaining compatriot, BMC’s Roche and set off for home by himself.

The pace on the descent had seen the peloton split apart, and by the time they reached the top of the penultimate climb of the day on 150km, Kwiatkowski led the main GC group by 45 seconds, but Herrada had been caught on the wrong side of the earlier splits and was now all of 3’20” down on the sole leader.

Kwiatkowski held on to inside the final 6km, but with the final climb to Alto Les Praeres averaging 12.5% over its 4km, he quickly disappeared down the order once he had been reeled in.

The gradient immediately field the field apart as it had always threatened to.

Steven Kruiswijk (Lotto-NL Jumbo) was the first to try his luck, producing an impressive turn of speed that his rivals were initially unable to match. Valverde nearly bridged over with 2.8km to go, with teammate Quintana just behind, alongside Yates, Uran and Miguel Angel Lopez.

Kruijswijk kicked again, but 2.2km from the line he was reeled back in to leave seven riders hitting the steepest parts of the climb all together.

Then Quintana and Lopez found another gear and opened some daylight ahead of Kruijswijk, Valverde, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FdJ), Yates and Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors).

Yet sure enough, again the group of 7 came back together. With 1.5km to go Quintana went again, and finally went all in, and again only Lopez could match his acceleration.

With the worst of the climb now behind them, the pair looked poised to fight for the stage between them, but then appeared to start watching each other. That allowed the rest of the GC hopefuls (now joined by Rigoberto Uran (EF-Drapac) to once again regain contact, leaving eight riders going into the final kilometre altogether.

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