The 26-year-old Bury racer, whose success was all but guaranteed as he headed into Sunday’s largely processional final stage into Madrid with a one minute and 46 seconds lead, avoided any late mishaps to land his first Grand Tour title.
Victory for the Mitchelton-Scott rider followed success for Chris Froome at the Giro d’Italia and Geraint Thomas at the Tour de France to round off an unprecedented year for British cycling.
Indeed, it was a moment for the history books, with the three titles having never before been held by three riders from the same country.
Yates said: “It’s astonishing really. Growing up I was so accustomed to seeing the French, Italian and Spanish riders lead the way, so for myself, Chris and Geraint to all win a Grand Tour in the same year just shows how far the sport has come in this country.”
Froome, whose Tour-Vuelta double last year means British riders have now won five Grand Tours in a row, paid tribute to Yates’ achievement, saying: “Simon has looked so strong over the last three weeks and it’s great to see him take home the maillot rojo. It’s been a perfect year for British riders.”
Elia Viviani out-sprinted Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to win the 21st stage after a flat 100.9 kilometre ride from Alcorcon on Sunday, while Yates retained his advantage over Spain’s Enric Mas, Viviani’s team-mate at Quick-Step Floors, in the final General Classification standings.
And the day belonged firmly to the man in red, who has recovered from the disappointment of running out of gas at the Giro after holding the race leader’s pink jersey for 13 days to triumph in Spain.
Those punishing three weeks may have ended in heartache, but they proved Yates, who won the young rider classification at last year’s Tour de France, had what it takes to contend in Grand Tours – and he delivered at the very next opportunity.
Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said: “Simon Yates’s brilliant victory in the Vuelta is the latest success in a phenomenal year for British Cycling, following on from Froome winning the Giro d’Italia and Thomas the Tour de France.
“It is testament to the talent development programme of British Cycling, backed by National Lottery cash, that so many of our riders have become the world-leading cyclists that they are today. Their success is helping to encourage many more people get on their bikes and get active.”
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