Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) has successfully defended the overall lead on a dangerous stage 17 at the Vuelta a España thanks to a strong effort from his team.
As Michael Woods (Education First – Drapac) won the stage from the breakaway ahead, Yates sacrificed eight seconds to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) and Enris Mas (Quickstep Floors) in the sprint to the line but gained time on his other major rivals.
Aware of the danger ahead, Mitchelton-SCOTT were on high alert at the start of stage 17 and prepared for a big fight to control the riders who made the break.
Unsurprisingly, it was the target for a lot of teams and 21 riders eventually rode off the front before being joined by five more. The group of 26 rode out to an advantage of over seven minutes as Alex Edmondson, Luka Mezgec and Matteo Trentin shouldered a lot of the work at the front of the peloton for Mitchelton-SCOTT.
Euskadi – Murias were keen to show their colours on their home roads before Astana Pro Team took over for the two climbs before the tough final ascent. The injection of pace shrunk the gap but it never threatened the break’s chances of stage honours, eventually won by Woods.
Going early from the bottom of the climb, Valverde was the first of the favourites to attack but with three riders still in the group, Mitchelton-SCOTT closed the move down thanks to Jack Haig. Shortly after, Adam Yates moved to the front of the group, with brother Simon in tow, setting a pace that dropped a number of contenders and nullified any serious attacks until the final sprint to the line.
Whilst Valverde and Mas gained eight seconds, others relinquished time. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) lost just two seconds, but Steven Kruijswijk (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) conceded 56 seconds apiece.
Simon Yates: “We employed our secret weapon in Adam over the last kilometres, that’s why we’ve been saving him for this final section of the race and Jack was around the mark also. The whole team were there today, and they did a fantastic job.”
“I lost a few seconds in the sprint there in the end, it’s no shame to lose a few seconds to Valverde in a sprint and I put time into a few other people so all in all it was a good day.
“We expect aggressive, attacking racing from Valverde and Movistar – I don’t think he knows any other way to ride and he has a very strong team around him.
“Of all the stages left I was most afraid of this one but there’s still a lot of hard racing to come. Tomorrow should be a sprint day and we can hopefully take it a bit easier, although you never know, and then we have Andorra. I think those stages will suit me better than today, but we’ll see.”
La Vuelta a Espana – Stage 17 Results:
1. Michael Woods (EF-Education-First-Drapac) 04:09:48
2. Dylan Teuns (BMC-Racing-Team) +0:05
3. Diego De la Cruz (Team-Sky) +0:10
17. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +2:48
General Classification after Stage 17:
1. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 69:05:34
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:25
3. Enric Mas (Quick-Step-Floors) +1:22