Simon Yates said that he has bigger ambitions after losing the red leader's jersey on stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana. The Mitchelton-Scott rider is now sitting second in the overall classification, 3:22 behind the new race leader Jesus Herrada (Cofidis).
Yates has held the jersey since stage 9 and had a slim one-second lead over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). With three tough mountain stages to come, and perhaps cautious after his Giro d'Italia crack in May, Yates is happy for the team to take a step back heading into the crucial weekend.
"Of course it's not nice to lose it, but I have bigger ambitions. I hope to take it in Madrid, not here. It's still a long way to go," said Yates. "We don't have to control anything for the weekend, a really important part of the race."
In recent days, Mitchelton-Scott have looked reluctant to take on the chase of the breakaway. On Wednesday, Movistar took up the pace setting and brought back danger-man Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), who had looked like he might move into the race lead after getting into the day's breakaway. It was a brutally quick day and the team decided that while they would try to keep the gap reasonable, they weren't going to bust a gut taking the break back.
"We had a plan anyway to ride, but we weren't going to force it. We didn't really try to force who was in the break and who wasn't or it would've been another day like yesterday. There's a big weekend coming up, we need to save as much energy as possible," Yates explained.
Herrada is not among the general classification favourites, but he is also not one to be taken too lightly. The 28-year-old is a two-time Spanish road champion and previously won the young rider competition at the Tour de Romandie. The next three stages are going to be a very tough challenge for all the GC contenders with three consecutive summit finishes.
Aside from Herrada's substantial lead, it is still extremely close in the overall standings with less than a minute separating second and 11th. Yates is feeling good but admits it is hard to really tell how his rivals are going with so few proper GC days until now.
"I feel good. It's hard today because compared to the Giro we've only had two GC days, but in the Giro it was since day one. It's day 12, we already had three or four major days and there were gaps already [at the Giro], here we only had two days," he said.