Whilst one Briton, Chris Froome (Team Sky) is logically grabbing most of the headlines in the Vuelta a Espana, a second, Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange), is slowly but surely carving out a top result for himself, too.
Yates has already won a stage in this year's Vuelta a Espana, on a day of extreme heat and constantly undulating rough roads in Galicia in the first week. And while his main mission remains to work for Orica-BikeExchange leader Esteban Chaves, as the Vuelta passes its half-way point, Yates is still lying seventh overall and, within that general game plan, seeing what he can do on GC as well.
Asked if he was pleased with how things were going on general classification for him, with a stage win and working for Chaves, too, Yates answered after taking sixth on Peña Cabarga, "Yeah, I am. It's a bit of a cliché, but day by day, that's really what we've got to do. I've never done the GC over the three weeks before, so day by day.
"I've never done a different Grand Tour other than the Tour de France [in 2014 and 2015 -ed] either. The Vuelta is new for me, and I'm enjoying the experience up to now. Even in the Tour some days I was not fighting for GC, but I was still fighting for stages, taking some days off, doing different things, it was a totally different race. Here it's more relaxed at the starts, and it's brutally fast at the end, but there's not so much stress so that's better for me."
In terms of the Peña Cabarga climb, Chaves' blistering but unsuccessful charge halfway up the climb was the one real manoeuvre by a GC contender before Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Froome went clear. Chaves was then reeled in but remains solidly in fourth overall.
"It was a good move; it showed that he's got good legs, but he ran out that little bit too soon," Yates observed.
Chaves remains very much in contention overall, but Yates argued that it was also no surprise Quintana and Froome were eventually able to blast past.
"They're pretty big champions, those guys. It's normal they can respond: it was the day after the rest day as well, so everybody's freshened up. You never know how you'll feel, but those guys seem to know what they're doing, so I'm not surprised."
The one part of stage 11 that was seemingly not on anybody's script for the day was the massive acceleration by Tinkoff, which saw the breakaway reeled in after nearly 60 kilometres of chasing. "It was a bit unexpected," Yates agreed "but they wanted the stage, and they put their balls on the line to get it, so fair play to them."
Although Orica-BikeExchange, like Tinkoff, did not manage to reap the benefits of their manoeuvres at Peña Cabarga, Yates feels that for Chaves the best opportunities are yet to come. The summit finish on the Aubisque on Saturday, culminating what is by far the hardest single mountain stage, is, Yates, says, much more up the Colombian's street. "We're pretty confident for that stage, but we'll have to see how it plays out," he concludes, "There is a still a long way to go and a lot of hard stages from there to Madrid, but I think they definitely suit him more."
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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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