Having relinquished the Vuelta a Espana race lead a day ago, Simon Yates closed in on it once again on Friday's summit finish at La Camperona. The Mitchelton-Scott rider followed a late attack from Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and now sits just 1:42 behind the current race leader Jesus Herrada (Cofidis).
The 8.3-kilometre Alto de Camperona was the first of three summit finish tests for the general classification riders. Yates and his Mitchelton-Scott team were able to keep their noses out of the wind on the tough stage after allowing Herrada to take the lead of the race in the previous day's stage.
As the stage reached the final kilometre, Yates attacked and Quintana followed with the Colombian eventually dropping Yates in the final few hundred metres.
"He was strong again like I knew he would be. I did a good round which I'm happy with. We have a few more hard days to come now on the weekend," Yates said after the stage. "It was a bit of a drag race with Nairo, we were just sprinting next to each other until the flatter section.
"We had a bit of a gap and started looking to each other for who was going to take control before we had a bit of a sprint to the line, and he put me away there by a few seconds."
In the end, Yates gained time on almost all of his rivals but gave away five seconds to Quintana. Yates remains in second place – with the deficit to Herrada drastically cut – but Quintana is now in third place and only eight seconds behind the Mitchelton-Scott rider. Right behind Quintana is his teammate Alejandro Valverde, who crossed the line 11 seconds back on Yates.
Movistar have been the team most present on the front of the peloton in recent days, even when it was Yates leading the race. Yates has previously said that Mitchelton-Scott didn't have the numbers to control the race in the same way as the Spanish team and says that it is going to be tough to compete with them over the next two stages.
"It depends, I don't know (how it will play out). If I have the same legs again that I had today then I'll be happy," explained Yates. "It's subjective. I don't know. It's not really mano a mano (in the mountains) because they have a very strong team. Valverde is always there or thereabouts, obviously. I might be a bit outnumbered there, but we'll see."
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