A year after he crashed in the Volta a Catalunya at the foot of the Valter 2000 climb and broke his pelvis, Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was able to take both a stage win on the Volta's toughest climb and simultaneously move to within seconds of the overall lead.
At Valter 2000, Yates outpowered a select group of contenders to clinch his second individual win of the season after another summit win in Spain, on the toughest stage of the Volta a Valencia in February.
Yates is now second overall behind Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), with a tight three second advantage over Egan Bernal (Team Sky) and Daniel Martin (UAE Team Emirates), whilst Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) are only slightly further adrift.
That means the sparks will surely fly tomorrow at the Volta's second summit finish of La Molina, with time bonuses on offer mid-stage as well. But after his stage win on the Volta's toughest summit of 2019, and with De Gendt telling reporters he has no expectations whatsoever of keeping the lead for another stage, Yates is looking to be the best placed of all the GC favourites.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Yates said he had previous knowledge of the climb both from recons and from racing.
"I did the climb in the 2014 Volta when we did it in the snow, it was snowing pretty much the whole day and it's also not too far from Andorra" - where Yates lives - "so we could pop down and do a little bit of recon."
When Bernal attacked, Yates briefly seemed unable to follow, but he said that he was aiming to go at his own pace for as long as possible. "I was a few wheels back, so I just paced my effort. There was a long way to go still, four or five kilometres out."
"I slowly came back to him, and then it was a little bit of a game. Quintana didn't want to work at one point, then Dan Martin was attacking, so yeah, it was all a game. And it ended in a sprint, and I managed to come round the corner first!"
With the stage win behind him, the battle for GC begins, but Yates, recently a narrowly-defeated second in Tirreno-Adriatico, was cautious about what tactics he would employ and how he saw the race panning out.
"Tomorrow [Thursday] is another day, at La Molina, another hard one and another opportunity to win. Obviously I'm in good condition, so I'll try, but this race isn't over til Barcelona and the last stage there is always really difficult. So I'll try my best and hopefully I can win."
Yates agreed with a laugh that having crashed and broken his pelvis at Camprodon - at the foot of the climb - last year, "so far things are looking much better. But like I said before, tomorrow and Barcelona could be good stages for me, Simon won there last year, and whatever suits him suits me so there's two more opportunities."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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