Valverde cuts into Yates’ lead as Woods wins stage

Reuters

Fri, Sep 14, 2018 - Page 16

Simon Yates’ slender lead in the Vuelta a Espana was cut from 33 to 25 seconds after the Briton lost ground to Spaniard Alejandro Valverde in Wednesday’s 17th stage in the mountains, which was won by Canadian rider Michael Woods.

Woods snatched a first Grand Tour stage victory by edging ahead of Belgian Dylan Teuns in thick mist 400m from the summit finish of the Balcon de Bizkaia mountain at the end of the 157km stage from Getxo.

He outlasted a breakaway also containing Team Sky’s David de la Cruz and Rafal Majka.

Teuns finished five seconds behind Woods, while Spaniard De La Cruz finished third, 10 seconds back.

Woods said he was more determined to win after he and his wife lost their son due to stillbirth.

“My wife had a stillbirth two months ago. We lost the little guy, his name was Hunter,” Woods told reporters.

“The whole time I was going up the climb I was thinking of him — I wanted to win so bad for him and I did,” he said.

Yates, bidding to become the second consecutive Briton to win the Vuelta after Chris Froome’s victory last year, finished 2 minutes, 48 seconds behind Woods in 17th place, third-fastest of the general classification hopefuls, losing eight seconds to Spaniards Valverde and Enric Mas.

“Of course, I would have liked not to have lost time, but those two guys in front of me were very strong there in the final,” said Yates, who wore the pink jersey for most of the Giro d’Italia this year, but faded in the final week.

“I did a good ride and I’m happy with what I did. [Twin brother and Mitchelton-Scott teammate] Adam was there with me for the entire climb, he did a really good job. Today was the day I was most worried about, so I’m happy to have it over with,” he said.

Nairo Quintana’s hopes of a repeat of his 2016 Vuelta victory faded further, as the Colombian finished 3 minutes, 44 seconds behind Woods, sliding down to sixth place overall, 2 minutes, 11 seconds off Yates.

His attention for the remainder of the Vuelta has turned to supporting teammate Valverde’s bid to repeat his 2009 triumph.

“I just didn’t have any strength, I lost time today, but the important thing is Alejandro is still there,” Quintana said.

Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk had climbed into third the day before following a successful time trial, but he fell back to fifth place after a disappointing performance in the mountains, with Spaniard Mas taking his spot in third, 1 minute, 22 seconds behind Yates.

Yesterday was to be the final flat stage of the Vuelta, a 186.1km route from Ejea de los Caballeros to Lleida before two final summit finishes in the Pyrenees that will almost certainly determine the winner of the race, which culminates with a procession through Madrid on Sunday.