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Vuelta a Espana 2018: Stage 20


Hello and welcome to our live coverage from stage 20 of the Vuelta a Espana, the final showdown in the mountains and the stage that will decide the final winner of this year's race. 

Okay so what do we have in store today? Well, 97.3km of racing, 6 climbs, and the final summit finish of the race. It should be chaotic, it should be relentless and it should be everything you've come to expect from the Vuelta a Espana. 

Here's how things stand on GC coming into the penultimate stage of the race. Yates holds a 25 second lead over Valverde and should have enough in the tank to see this out.

Sorry, 1:38 lead over Valverde after yesterday's collapse from the Spanish rider. That should be enough.... although we can all remember what happened to Yates at the Giro earlier in this year. That said, it would take something incredible for the Mitchelton rider to lose his lead today. On stage 19 he closed a gap to Pinot and other and made it almost look effortless, while Valverde struggled. 

Riders have signed on and we're just a few minute away from the official stage start. Yates is at the front, in red, and he looks pretty relaxed given the pressure on his shoulders today. Unless we see a real collapse from the Mitchelton man the real battle should be between a few riders for the final podium spots. It's close between second and fifth at the moment.

There's hardly a meter of flat road today, with the bunch either climbing or descending. It's once again going to be up to Movistar to try and open the race but much of that depends on how confident they are after Valverde cracked yesterday. Their opening moves in today's stage will given a strong indication as to whether they're still racing to win or looking to merely defend second place overall. 


UCI president David Lappartient is on the startline this afternoon. He's clapping. Not sure why... but we'll bring you more on this breaking news as we get it. 

And we are rolling out. Lappartient has left the roadside, not sure if he's still clapping, but EF Education are leading through the neutral zone. Valverde is there too actually as he sits just next to the race organiser's lead car. We're actually climbing through the neutralized zone. That's not much fun.

Onto the first climb and the first attack comes from Team Sky. Lotto Soudal are leading the chase. 96km to go.

The Team Sky rider is none other than Tao Geoghegan Hart. The bunch have already strung out as we see Aru slip towards the back of the main field. Geoghegan Hart has a gap of around 70m or so but more riders are just itching to attack.

Geoghegan Hart, of course, is making his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta. 3.5km to go on this first climb of the day and the Team Sky second year pro is still clear, but on his own. He'll want some company for sure.

More and more riders are slipping back from the peloton, even at this early stage in the action, as the road rises once more. Viviani is also being dropped as well. 94km to go.

It's De Gendt in the KOM jersey who is leading the chase. There are 53 KOM points up for grabs and the Belgian, who actually has a collection of KOM jerseys at home, is drilling it on the front of the bunch. 

93km remaining from 97km

De Gendt takes up the pace setting as the bunch further fragments. I think he won the KOM at Romandie earlier this year, hence how I know about his collection of KOM jerseys. While I've written that he's accelerated with 1km to go until the summit. He takes maximum points to pad his lead in the competition. We have a 4km descent, a very short flat section, and then we're climbing again. Trentin is another rider who has been dropped but he looks magnificent in that Euro Champs jersey so it doesn't really matter. 

A break is starting to form on the descent and Kwiatkowski is there with Nibali, De Gendt, one rider from Movistar and around eight more riders. 90km to go.

Nibali takes charge and leads down the descent. There's a little front wheel wobble but he recovers nicely and corrects his line. He's not waiting for the rest but Cataldo, de la Cruz and Kwiatkowski, Mollema, De Gendt are on the Italian in a flash. We'll be climbing again in just a moment. 

The break have established a 50 second lead with Mitchelton Scott leading the peloton. There are 15 riders up the road with 86km to go. 

The break have established a 1'03 lead with 84km to go. There are no GC threats up the road as Aru now tries and attack with several riders, including Rolland. That acceleration brings the first break back down to 49 seconds. 5.9km to go on this second climb of the day as we see Zakarin make into into the move with Aru and Rolland.

A few more names in the break: Mollema, Roche, and Herrada and it's Mollema who attacks with a massive move 4.9km from the summit. That's a huge sprint.

Further down the climb and Mitchelton just keep tapping away, protecting Yates on the second climb of the day. 82km to go and the break have 1'54.

82km remaining from 97km

And Quintana now does have a gap. He goes away with a rider from AG2R and one from Trek. He takes a look back so see the damage done - not much at this point - and then eases back so that the rest of the field can bring him back.

Here's a list of the riders in the front break:

Quintana accelerates from the front again and just lines out Yates's teammates. They want to isolate him as quickly as possible but Trentin is still there, so the pace isn't that quick. Further up the road and De Gendt is chasing down Mollema but it's hard to keep up because there are riders all over the road. 

The Yates group is down to less than 50 riders. Our new leaders are De Gendt, Mollema, Nibali and Majka....

80km remaining from 97km

Quintana's move has been closed but he remains on the front of the bunch - or what's left of it - and sets the pace. None of the main GC riders have been put under real pressure yet but domestiques have been shot out the back as Quintana puts the hammer down once more. 

New lead group contains Rolland, Majka, Mollema, Kwiatkowski and Nibali. No De Gendt. Repeat: No De Gendt.

Correction: De Gendt is in fact leading and the chase group is  as follows:

75km remaining from 97km

Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo)  Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data) and Andrey Amador (Movistar Team) have now attacked from the peloton.

On the descent De Gendt has sat up and is now back with the Nibali/Mollema group. We then have a group of 8, a group of 4, and then the peloton.

66km remaining from 97km

Onto the third climb of the day as we see Mollema push the pace at the front of the break. The leaders have 2'52 with 64km to go as Nibali takes on a feed from the team car. This is a really strong group and with no Movistar presence they have a real chance of deciding the stage win.

The second group that contains Herrada, Roche, Zakarin, De la Cruz, and Kelderman are about to make contact with the front group. 7.4km to go on this climb, with the bunch 2'56 behind the break.

You could make a pretty incredible WorldTour team from the break we have up the road. Still 5/9km to go on this climb, with the break 2'52 ahead of the bunch.

Yates, back in the main field, has plenty of support around him as we see the pace settle back slightly. Aru, who had been on the attack earlier in the stage, has been dropped. 60km to go.

Kelderman is best placed on GC, just over 10 mins down on GC as he takes his turn in the break. We can still see Aru suffering back in the cars. He might pack. 

Meanwhile Cataldo and Majka share a word. Majka looks fresh and like he's up for it today. Not like the time he told me (via a press officer) at a winter training camp that he was too tired to do an interview because he had been playing table tennis for several hours. 'Did you not see him play?' the press officer asked me. Speechless. I'll get over it one day though.

58km remaining from 97km

Astana are now leading the bunch on the climb. They have men in the break but they're trying to set something up for Lopez... that's the only explanation for this amount of work at the front of the peloton.

Herrada has now attacked from the break as Astana continue to put the hammer down. Gallopin is in trouble and has started to lose ground already. 55km to go and Herrada is going solo as the break begin to question their existence. In the race... not life in general. 

Herrada goes over the top of the climb, and the gap between the front of the race and Yates is at 1'33. 54km to go.

Astana are still drilling it on the front of the main field. They want to set up Lopez for the stage today, and maybe a little push further up the GC. 52km to go. 

Results from the Coll de Ordino:

Herrada has been brought back by the Nibali group. I think, with the use of my GSCE maths (C grade, thanks for asking) I think De Gendt has the KOM jersey in the bag. 

1'05 for the break with 41km to go. Astana have two men in the break, and they're also driving the peloton along. 

Onto the next climb and really, it's now or never for the specialists in the break. Kwiatkowski sets the pace for de la Cruz but Astana are holding the gap at one minute. 39km to go.

The two Team Sky riders continue on the front of the break and Lopez is hovering near the front of the bunch too. The race is starting to heat up. 

We've not mentioned Nibali but he's there, in the break, and sitting fourth wheel, just behind semi-pro tennis player Majka. 

And Sky are really splitting the group, with 5km to go on this climb. The red jersey, however, is at just 50 seconds. 

Nibali has been dropped, so we have the pair from Sky, Majka and Mollema, who is hanging on... just.

Bang! Lopez has attacked and joined Cataldo and Fraile from the earlier break. Lovely move. 

37km remaining from 97km

Swap in-out. As we see Kwiatowski crack after that long turn and then Mollema regain contact with the leaders. To be fair he's really struggling just to hold the wheel but he's showing some real resilience. 

And Mollema has been dropped for good... I think as de la Cruz and Majka lead the race with 35km to go. Lopez has about 15 seconds on the Yates group as we see him work with Cataldo and Nibali. They're about to catch Mollema. 

And Majka has attacked with 35km to go. De la Cruz leans over the bars as if he's in TT mode and looks to make contact with 1.8,km to go until the summit of the climb. We've not mentioned Yates for a while now and that's perfect for him. He's been kept out of trouble. 

Huge turn from Cataldo, who then cracks big time, before Lopez takes over with Nibali and Mollema for company. Up the road and Majka is with de la Cruz once more. Nibali is going to bring the two groups back together before the summit.

Kelderman is in trouble at the back of the Yates group. He's dropped with 34km to go. 

And Mitchelton are about to bring it all back together, with around 500m to go on the climb. All that work from Astana and little reward... so far.

Zakarin has cracked too. We're left with just over a dozen riders and Lopez attacks again but it's more of a sprint for KOM points, but Mollema takes maximum points. 33km to go. 

Quintana has attacked on the descent. He gains 50m and looks back. Then kicks once more. He's trying, I guess.

And it does put Yates under a little bit of pressure. He gets his line a little wrong through that last corner but survives. It's Adam Yates who is currently leading the chase.

Quintana has less than two seconds of an advantage. 30km to go. 

Quintana continues to waste energy out front with 27km to go. I guess Movistar are at least getting something out of him, given that he doesnt have the power to really make the difference on the climbs. Yates has the Colombian just where they want him but this is softening up a few of Valverde's rivals too. 

Onto the climb with 20km to go and Quintana has been joined by Lopez out front as we see de la Cruz start to struggle. Lopez looks really motivated today as we see Adam Yates in the distance leading the chase.

Nibali has been dropped/eased up.

And Quintana has been dropped by Lopez with 19.7km to go.

Quintana is actually starting to come back... as we see Mollema hanging on at the back of the red jersey group. 

And Quintana does indeed make it back to Lopez, and the pair have around 10 seconds on the GC group. Lopez will not get a single pedal stroke of assistance. 

A reminder of the GC picture coming into this stage:

The leading pair have increased their lead, and it's about 15 seconds now as Lopez continues to lead with Quintana on his wheel. and Quintana is now taking a turn. 

17km remaining from 97km

Quintana must have been told on the radio that Valverde couldnt follow. 

And only Mas can follow Yates after that vicious acceleration. Is that game over for Valverde?

And now Lopez starts to pull away from Quintana but the Movistar rider comes back once more. We're about to go over the top of the climb. Just one more ascent to come after this. 

And Mas will work with Yates because he can still make it onto the podium. 

Just seven seconds for Lopez/Quintana over Yates and Mas. 

That attack from Yates just blew the red jersey group apart and we've still got another climb to go, with 14km to go. Yates is really pushing it on the descent but he really doesn't need to take any risks.

And with 14km to go we have four leaders: Yates, Lopez, Quintana and Mas. 

And with 14km to go we have four leaders: Yates, Lopez, Quintana and Mas. 

17 seconds for the four leaders. Quintana just sits at the back of the group, under team orders as Mas orders the others to come through. Valverde is back down the road with a group that contains Woods, A Yates, Pinot and a few others. Not sure Uran is there, however.

29 seconds now for the four leaders. Kruijswijk is losing his podium spot at things stand. 

As things stand Mas is up to second overall as we start the final climb of the 2018 Vuelta a Espana. 

Desperate times for Movistar right now because Valverde is on the ropes. I think they're about to call Quintana back. Yep.

Quintana loses ground as the road rises. 7km to go. Movistar realise they cant win the stage, so defending Valverde is all they have left. 

Yates, Lopez and Mas lead the race by 20 seconds and hello.... Yates has been dropped with 6.6km to go.

He starts to pick up the pace and drag himself back to the leaders. Kruijswijk needs to attack because he can't rely on Movistar to save his skin. 

Yates is holding Lopez and Mas with 6km to go but now he gets on the radio. 

And Yates loses a couple more seconds as Mas sets the pace with Lopez on his wheel. 

Simon Yates is losing a few more seconds on this climb. Not panic stations but Lopez and Mas have 10 seconds with 5km go. It can't happen again, surely?

Back down the climb and Kruijswijk is with a group that contains Valverde, Quintana and Pinot, and Yates is looking back down the road. 

Yates doesn't look in real trouble and he just needs to keep it together for another 4.4km. He's not cracked just yet.

And Valverde has cracked. 3.9km to go and the podium is surely lost. Game over.

Valverde is a minute down on the two leaders with 3.8km to go and Quintana is waiting for him. 

Well at least Movistar went down fighting and least they've ridden as a team. 

Out front, Mas and Lopez have 15 seconds on Yates. 

Kruijswijk is off the podium as things stand. If it finished now Yates would win the Vuelta ahead of Mas and Lopez.

Valverde is a real sorry sight at the moment as he struggles to hold Quintana's wheel. Yates is now at 22 seconds with 2.8km to go.

2km remaining from 97km

And now Uran attacks and Kruijswijk has cracked. His podium dreams are over.

Yates out of the saddle is at 18 seconds. The Vuelta is his if he can survive the next 1.2km of climbing. Valverde is down to fifth on GC at the moment. 

Lopez can still get second if he wins the stage and drops Mas. 

And Lopez kicks on for the finish. He can't get rid of Mas just yet though.

Yates now at 24 seconds but he's almost home.

The two leaders talk to each other and that allows Yates to close a few more seconds on them. 500m to go.

Mas leads out.

Lopez fights back but Mas takes it. 

Yates comes over the line, no celebration as he drops his head. Job done though as Pinot and Uran fight to the line after Kruijswijk cracked. 

Kelderman will be next over the line and then Kruijswijk.

Here's today's top 10:

General classification after stage 20

1 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 79:44:30
2 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:01:46
3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:02:04
4 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:02:54
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:28
6 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:05:57
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:06:07
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:06:51
9 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:11:09
10 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:11:11

And that's the GC with Mas second overall and Lopez third. Gallopin dropped well outside the top 10, while the rest of the pack went through a mini reshuffle. 

And you can find our brief report and results, right here.

Descent stage in the end although Yates was never really put in too much danger by his rivals. Mas took a deserved win, especially when you consider he didn't have anywhere near the support that Lopez had during the stage. Valverde, and Quintana just weren't good enough. 

Lets hear from Simon Yates:

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