As Adam Yates passed over the finish line in Vallter 2000 after winning stage 3 of the Volta a Catalunya on Wednesday, he repeatedly pointed one forefinger of his right hand skywards, in a clear gesture of just how important it was for him to secure his first-ever victory for Ineos Grenadiers, who he joined during the off-season.
The Briton was also celebrating his team's second victory in as many days after Rohan Dennis' win in Tuesday's time trial, and in which Yates' impressive seventh place laid the first foundation stone to oust João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) from the overall lead.
Yates' 15th career win was not his first in Vallter 2000. It was the same finish where in the race's last visit to the Pyrenean ski resort in 2019, he scored a notable victory against four other riders including overall winner Miguel Angel Lopez, Nairo Quintana, Dan Martin and his current teammate Egan Bernal.
But as Yates insisted afterwards, quite apart from reaping the spoils of his final attack 1.7 kilometres from the line, Ineos Grenadiers could be equally satisfied with their collective performance.
"We tried to keep the break under control at the beginning over the stage because they took a lot of time," Yates commented, "and we had to bring the gap down before the bottom of the climb. It's a long, really hard climb, so we knew if we had a couple of minutes at the bottom we could bring it back.
"Everything went perfectly, we had cards to play in the end like we knew we would have, with three or even four guys on GC after the time trial" - himself, Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte and Richard Carapaz - "and we played them well."
Up until about 20 kilometres to go, Ineos Grenadiers contributed to chasing down the nine breakaways together with Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck-QuickStep, and then Dennis was largely responsible for setting a blistering pace in the peloton on the lower third of the climb itself.
Carapaz pegged back a dangerous challenge spearheaded by Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who have four overall wins between them in the Volta a Catalunya, before Yates bridged across and then ripped open a lead for himself.
"Richie went with the other move, and then I came across and I kept going. It's never easy to know when to attack, but two years ago I went really well here. I was hoping that we could start working but I had enough strength and momentum to go straight past.
"I still had [Sepp] Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and Alejandro with me, but in the end, I managed to try to drop them," he concluded, finally taking his first win since the UAE Tour overall in 2020 by 13 seconds on Esteban Chaves (Team BikeExchange) and 19 on Valverde.
He recognised that Vallter was a climb that suited him saying, "we did it in 2014 as well, so I know it well. I'm happy to come back here, and happy to win again too."
Second in the Volta a Catalunya in 2019, Yates confirmed at Vallter that he will be looking to go one better overall in 2021. Although margins are still quite tight at the top of the GC, he has teammates Porte in second place at 45 seconds and Thomas, who paced himself more steadily to a notable fourth on the stage, in fourth place too at 53 seconds. Ineos were already the team to beat after stage 2, and after stage 3 now are even more so, with Almeida sandwiched between three Ineos riders.
"Tonight we'll sit down and look at it all, but first we'll celebrate this one," Yates said. "Tomorrow [stage 4] is much harder than this one, today we only had the last climb, so I think we'll see after tomorrow how we are. Then there's the Barcelona stage, everyone knows how hard that is, so we'll take it day by day. But so far so good."
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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