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Vuelta a Espana 2018: Dennis wins race against clock as Yates extends lead

Joe Robinson
11 Sep 2018

Yates extends lead to 33 seconds with just one week left of racing

BMC Racing's Rohan Dennis took an expected victory in the Stage 16 time-trial to Torrelavega as Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) extended his Vuelta a Espana lead.

Yates managed to finish seven seconds up on Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to extend his overall lead to 33 seconds after a measured performance across the 32km course.

The day's big loser was Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who not only lost time to Yates but also found himself booted from the podium by a flying Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo).

Dennis took the race spoils, managing to ride a negative split which left him 50 seconds ahead of anyone else in the field. This provided the Australian with his second victory at this year's Vuelta having already snatched the Stage 1 time-trial.

For Yates, he will now look to defend his race lead in the final five stages of racing, which includes three mountain stages, starting with tomorrow's summit finish atop the Balcon de Bizkaia.

Race against the clock

Stage 16 was the race of truth, a 32km individual time-trial from Santillana del Mar to Torrelavega. 

It was going to be fast. The route rolled towards the beginning before becoming flat as a pancake for the final 10km. A perfect course for the powerful and a potential banana skin for the smaller, lighter climbers. 

Simon Yates only held a 26-second advantage over Alejandro Valverde, a capable rider against the clock on his day, and 33 seconds over Nairo Quintana in third. It was highly possible that the red jersey was going to change hands at the end of the day.

As for the stage spoils, it almost seemed obvious as to who was going to take that: Rohan Dennis. The Australian had already claimed the opening time-trial and looked dead set to add a second win. 

So when the 28-year-old crossed the line to set a provisional lead of 37 minutes and 57 seconds, few were surprised. His time was 50 seconds better than teammate Joey Rosskopf and Jonathan Castroviejo (Team Sky), pushing him into the hot seat.

Riders came and went but none came close to troubling Dennis, and victory seemed to be his. What was important now was the battle for GC.

All riders were on the course and by the first time split an impression of the day had been made. Kruijswijk passed the first time check 10 seconds quicker than Dennis while Yates had only conceded three seconds to closest competitor Valverde.

The flying Dutchman began to fade from Dennis's time but was still putting his fellow GC riders to the sword, still far ahead of the likes of Yates and in particular Quintana and Lopez all on the road.

Kruijswijk eventually finished fifth on the day but had taken enough time to bump himself up the GC standings onto the virtual podium, with Quintana's performance seeing him lose out on his podium spot.

Valverde then rolled in, himself over 90 seconds adrift of Dennis though this had little meaning. What was important was the time of Yates.

Eventually, the Brit bested Valverde by seven seconds – a minor gain but one he would surely have happily taken at the start of the day.

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