Simon Yates proved to be the only GC rider to make a long-distance attack in the Vuelta a Espana's queen stage 14 and, although the Orica-BikeExchange pro did not win the stage, he made a leap from seventh to fourth overall.
In a superbly calculated manouvre by the Orica-BikeExchange team, Yates broke away on the Col du Marie-Blanque, using a series of teammates first to stretch out his lead and then take on the Aubisque alone.
First, teammate Jack Haig moved ahead of the main bunch to pace Yates away from the red jersey group, then with Orica-BikeExchange's Jens Keukeleire, Simon Gerrans and Magnus Cort Nielsen present in the break of the day, all three later played their part in speeding the Briton down the descent of the Marie-Blanque, and on the flat approach road to the Aubisque.
After Gerrans, the last rider to go, pulled aside on the lower slopes of the Aubisque, Yates then turned in one of his strongest performances to date on a major mountain stage as he inched upwards through the series of dropped riders en route to a fifth place at the summit. Meanwhile Esteban Chaves, having acted as a brake on the favourites group behind, finally launched his own move six kilometres from the line, also gaining time and moving into third on the GC.
A second stage win - and third for Orica-BikeExchange in the Vuelta - remained tantalizingly out of reach on the Aubisque, but Yates' dramatic mountain ride, gaining 68 seconds on Chris Froome (Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) nonetheless leaves the Briton in fourth place overall and looking strong.
"We made a plan at the start and we executed it to how we wanted it," Yates said at the finish. "I was pretty tired there, and I am not even sure how it worked out.
"I gave it full gas, and it is what it is. There were a lot of riders up the road, it's normal that guys are tired. It's normal because I was in the bunch all day, and I was fresher."
Riding for a GC position in a Grand Tour for the first time in his career, Yates has already taken a stage win in Luintra and was on the attack at Peña Cabarga. He also tested the water briefly to shake up the opposition for his teammate Keukeleire on the run-in to Bilbao. To judge from the Aubisque, there could well be plenty more to come from Yates before next Sunday's finish in Madrid.
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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