With the second rest day looming at the Vuelta a Espana, Orica-Scott came out with a plan on stage 15 of the race centered around Adam Yates and Esteban Chaves. The Australian team have regularly sent a rider up the road in anticipation of a move by Chaves at the Vuelta and repeated the trick for the short, sharp affair at 129km to Sierra Nevada.
Having spent several weeks training at altitude at Sierra Nevada pre-Vuelta, Adam Yates, who dropped out of GC contention on stage 11, was the man to launch the first move for Orica-Scott but was a move for a stage win rather than a launch pad for Chaves as he explained.
"I had a stage win in mind but if it came back in the final I would be there (for Chaves). I gave it my best shot and it didn't work out so I'll try again another day," said Yates, who finished in 21st place. "I was just going my pace for pretty much an hour and a half, so there's no tactic or strategy, it's just full gas until the finish and my full gas wasn't good enough."
Adam Yates was fourth overall at the Tour de France last year and then ninth at the Giro d'Italia in May and came to the Vuelta aiming for his third straight top-ten result. However, since dropping out of the GC conversation his focus has shifted to stage wins. Brother Simon also had his GC aspirations ended in the first week and is likewise focused on adding to his stage win from last year.
With the decisive third week to come, Orica Scott's pre-race three pronged GC tilt has been reduced to one in Chaves. Occupying a place on the virtual podium for the majority of the race until La Pandera, Chaves halted his slide down the rankings to hold onto fifth place. The two-time stage winner at the Vuelta lead race leader Chris Froome over the line at the end of stage 16 to ensure a podium position in Madrid is still well within reach.
"We have two options, go for the stage win with Adam or I could attack and he could help me. Lopez was unbelievable, congratulations to him, Adam as well, he is a super strong guy," he said of stage winner Miguela Angel Lopez and teammate Yates. "Chris (Froome) is a really big champion. When Contador attacked he kept calm and the team rode really well. In the final we caught Contador and he is dropped. Unbelievable, the Sky team, and also us. We are a really good team, a young team with Jack (Haig) for example, Simon and Adam, they put everything in for the objective."
Orica-Scott's sport director Neil Stephens has been leading the team tactics from the car at the race, preferring to ride on the front foot and take on the likes of Froome than sitting back waiting for opportunities to arise. Slightly down on where the team planned to be on the eve of the second rest day, Stephens explained the focus on stage wins and GC will continue for the remainder of the race.
"We set off with an aggressive plan today and it almost came off. We were close to the stage and we rode well for the general classification," Stephens said. "I think the balance these two weeks has been quite positive. We would have liked to have been a bit higher up on the general classification, or closer in time but we have to praise the boy's efforts.
"The times we have lost time are when we went on the aggressive attack so we have to look at that in the future but in terms of this race, we are going to go down fighting and we will keep the same style of racing."
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