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Vuelta a España: Adam Yates suffers like never before in search of podium

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA SPAIN SEPTEMBER 05 Adam Yates of United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers sprints during the 76th Tour of Spain 2021 Stage 21 a 338 km Individual Time Trial stage from Padrn to Santiago de Compostela lavuelta LaVuelta21 ITT on September 05 2021 in Santiago de Compostela Spain Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) on the final time trial of the Vuelta a España 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) tried to move up the overall classification on the final stage of the Vuelta a España, searching for a podium spot with a determined turn of speed during the initial stages of the time trial on stage 21. The effort, however, didn’t succeed as the rider paid for that early pace as the race against the clock progressed.

On the undulating 33.8 kilometre course of the final stage into Santiago de Compostela, Yates needed to leapfrog third-placed Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) if he wanted to make it onto his first Grand Tour podium. The Briton had already moved up two places with his third place finish on the action-packed penultimate stage but still had a minute deficit to the Australian rider to try and make up in the final time trial. 

"I went out at the beginning quite hard,” said Yates. “But to be honest it was the pace that I needed to do to try and move up onto the podium." 

That early speed meant Yates went through the first checkpoint 13km in having pulled back 25 seconds on Haig, but there was still plenty more time he needed to make up if he wanted to step up to that much coveted third step. Though by the second checkpoint, with 9km to go, it was clear he was handing back ground rather than gaining it.

“Then in the second half I suffered like I’ve never suffered before,” Yates said. 

“It wasn’t to be but I gave it my best. That’s all you can hope for.”

In the end Yates finished behind his former Mitchelton-Scott teammate on the stage, dropping a further 26 seconds on Haig. On the overall, Yates finished 9:06 behind three-time winner Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and 1:26 off the podium. 

The fourth place was the 29 year old's equal best result at a Grand Tour, after he finished fourth at the Tour de France in 2016.  

"We had some good days and we had some bad days,” Yates said. 

“I think we raced quite well as a team. For me it’s my first Grand Tour with my new team. I enjoyed every moment. Not every day was perfect but it’s something to build on for next year and the years after that."

This year’s Giro d’Italia winner, Egan Bernal, was the next best finisher from the team in sixth place on the overall after attacking through the Asturias. He slipped back one spot on stage 20 as he was unable to follow teammate Yates in a group containing Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Enric Mas (Movistar) and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious). 

Bernal then delivered an impressive time trial, finishing sixth on the final stage and cutting his deficit to fifth-placed Gino Mäder (Bahrain Victorious) by a minute-and-a-half, though it wasn't enough to reclaim the position as the Swiss rider had well over three minutes advantage at the start of the final stage. 

"I learned about suffering. I think I’ve suffered a lot in this Vuelta but at the same time I enjoyed it a lot,” said Bernal. 

“I think in every race you learn something and I hope it will be good for next year.”