Simon Yates said it is “finally sinking in” that he is set to complete a British grand slam of Grand Tours in 2018 after extending his lead in the penultimate stage of La Vuelta.
The Bury racer finished third in Andorra on Saturday, and heads into Sunday’s largely processional final stage into Madrid with a one minute and 46 seconds advantage over the 20th stage winner, Enric Mas.
When it is completed, the Mitchelton-Scott rider will join Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas in a British threesome holding all three of the sport’s major tour titles at the same time, with Thomas having added the Tour de France to Froome’s Giro d’Italia.
Yates told his team’s official website: “Finally. I think it’s still sinking in. I’m incredibly proud, of the team also. They have carried me through this entire three weeks. It’s the first Grand Tour for the team and it’s just unbelievable.
“On the last climb I was OK. I was really at my limit and. I just tried to ride to my own rhythm and thankfully it was enough.
“I feel much better now that we have finished. It was a really crazy day. I have got to thank my team because everybody really stepped up, even the big guys who you didn’t expect to be there on the climbs.”
The decisive move which all but won Yates the title occurred 17km from the finish, when he launched a break to reel in the leading pair of Mas and Nairo Quintana.
Yates’ nearest rival Ernesto Valverde, who started the day one minute and 28 seconds adrift, could not match the Briton and fell away, eventually finishing three minutes behind his rival and down in fifth place overall.
As Quintana dropped back in a vain bid to coax something more from his ailing Movistar rival, Mas and Lopez went clear to contest the stage in a sprint finish, with Yates happy to remain alone in third.
Yates would eventually finish 23 seconds behind the top two, with Mas (Quick-Step Floors) just edging his Astana rival on the line.
His win helped lift Mas to second place in the standings – but not close enough to challenge Yates.
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