Simon Yates (Orica – BikeExchange) lit up the Vuelta a España GC battle with a long-distance attack in stage 14 across the French Pyrenees to surge into podium contention.
Stage 12 winner Jens Keukeleire set the day up by infiltrating the breakaway alongside Simon Gerrans and Magnus Cort with the trio setting the tempo all the way to the penultimate climb.
Australian Jack Haig was next to play his part with an attack out of the peloton that was followed by Yates. Haig gave his all and launched Yates up the road where Gerrans, Cort and Keukeleire were waiting.
The plan was executed beautifully with Yates riding exceptionally to finish fifth behind stage winner Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo).
“We had a plan at the start and we executed it to perfection,” said Yates. “The whole team performed really well and it’s good to see it pay off today.”
“There were a lot of guys still up the road who had been in the breakaway and everyone’s tired at this point, but I’d been in the bunch so I was that bit fresher on the Aubsique.”
Sport director Neil Stephens praised the performance of his team.
“There are some very strong teams competing in the race,” said Stephens. “We knew we were going to have to go head to head and we had some thoughts, almost a dream really, about how we were going to go about it.”
“The way we read the race was one of our particular strengths today alongside commitment, camaraderie and the faith these guys have in each other. This made it possible for us to pull it off today. Without those things we would not have achieved half as much as we did.
“We got the first part of the job done by getting three guys in the break, which was great. Next was putting Jack (Haig) out the front of the peloton who was followed by Simon (Yates).
“This caused some confusion and the other teams had to look at each other for a reaction, by the time they did Simon was in the valley with his other three teammates. These guys went on to hold off the chasers brilliantly, which allowed Simon to go again which really split the favourites group.
“When Esteban attacked it was just the leaders, no workers and it was down to the other favourites to respond and in that moment no one wanted to commit and that made the difference.
“I was hopeful we could move up the classification today and that’s what we did. Third and fourth place means we can be self assured about our position with lots of racing to come.”
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