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Vuelta a España: Bernal and Yates content after Ineos dynamite hilly penultimate stage

MOS SPAIN SEPTEMBER 04 Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia and Team INEOS Grenadiers white best young jersey competes during the 76th Tour of Spain 2021 Stage 20 a 2022km km stage from Sanxenxo to Mos Alto Castro de Herville 502m lavuelta LaVuelta21 on September 04 2021 in Mos Spain Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Egan Bernal and Ineos Grenadiers on stage 20 at the Vuelta a Espana (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Following Egan Bernal’s gutsy attacks in the mountains of Asturias, Adam Yates took over as Ineos Grenadiers main challenger in Galicia’s final hilly stage 20 of the Vuelta a España with a mixed degree of success, but an equal degree of satisfaction.

The Briton’s repeated attacks on the first category Alto de Mougás blew the race apart and saw him form an elite group of GC challengers alongside Enric Mas (Movistar) and race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).

Following some drawn-out skirmishing on the final climb long-distance after attacker Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates) was caught, Yates could not take the stage win, finishing in third place behind Clément Champoussin (AG2R-Citroen) and Roglič.

Even so, Yates gained two spots overall and moved up to fourth, while Bernal, in a chasing group containing Miguel Angel López (Movistar) until he quit, has dropped to sixth.

“I’m quite far down on GC, and I wanted the stage win, but I kept getting chased down,” Yates said at the finish. “There were some fast guys in the group, so I tried to drop them, but it wasn’t quite good enough. I’ll try next time.”

Yates said he was really thinking about the GC as there were other riders ahead of him, but as Bernal pointed out, Ineos Grenadiers had done great work trying to blow the race apart.

“We went very hard in the last 90 kilometres because we didn’t have much to lose, we wanted to put on a good show and leave it all out there," Bernal said.

“Then on the first category climb, we managed to split things up and from then on with all the attacks ahead, it turned into a bit of a lottery.

“At one point Adam went away and then he was looking for a podium place  against Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious). I wasn’t up there, but I’m glad he could fight for that in the race.”

With over 3,000 metres of vertical climbing, most of it packed into the second half, Bernal said that the team were always aware that it could be a difficult day and “on stage 20 of a Grand Tour, even the shortest hill hurts your legs.”

As for López's controversial abandon, Bernal argued that he had no idea where he had quit, but he expressed sympathy for the Colombian’s misfortune at losing his third place on the podium after Yates’ attack.

“I’m very sorry for him, I don’t know why he quit, but I’m sorry for him about that.”

Bernal said that he had not seen López actually get off the bike, and was not even aware that the Colombian had been in the same group as him at that point.

“It had a biggish number of riders, and the first I heard about it was over the radio, when they said that he’d gone. But the team cars was a way back and the signal wasn’t great.”

As for what reasons there could be for López's abandon, Bernal said bluntly “no idea. Ask him.”

Although he no longer leads the best young rider classification after Gino Mäder (Bahrain Victorious) overtook him on the second last day by moving up to fifth, Bernal said was “glad for him, he’s a great rider and deserves that jersey.”

“For him, too, it’s  a great achievement so I will be really happy to see him on the podium on Sunday.”

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.