Miguel Angel López (Astana Pro Team) remains on the hunt for both a podium finish and a first triumph in this year's Vuelta a España after a first stage in the Pyrenees where his attacks proved ineffective.
López and Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) shadowed each other closely on the final climb of La Rabassa, with Mas saying López had been sitting on his wheel throughout the ascent. And López later admitted that he had not a great day, crossing the line alongside Mas in fifth place, losing time on Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and moving down a spot to fifth overall.
López argued that the searing pace laid down by Movistar had ended up draining his own strength and then, whilst he began to find his legs again, that a lack of collaboration in the chasing group behind Yates had scuppered any chance of a late move.
"It was a tough day, because we went so hard on the flat and from the moment we began to climb, I wasn't feeling great," López told Spanish sports daily MARCA. "I had a problem getting a good pace, although towards the top it went better."
"The problem was that Simon attacked really hard and nobody wanted to work behind."
López has all but shelved the idea of winning outright given he is now 2:29 down on Yates, but less than a minute separates the following four riders, meaning he has a good chance of making the podium.
"I hope to do that at the least," Lopez said. "There's just one day left and I have to give it everything." And paralleling Mas's threats of an attack on Saturday, Lopez concluded, "Nobody should doubt that I will try it this time round."