Vuelta: Stage 18

Simon Yates safely through sprint stage won by Jelle Wallays as breakaway denies the sprinters the victory on stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana

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Vuelta: Stage 18

Yates safely through flat stage 18 before La Vuelta heads to Andorra

Another day in red for Simon Yates, another day closer to victory? Two big stages ahead. Pic: Getty Images

Three-time Giro d’Italia stage winner Simon Yates has been safely guided through stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana thanks to his Mitchelton-SCOTT teammates. The flat stage, with no categorised climbs, looked set as one for the sprinters but despite controlling the race all day, they failed to catch the breakaway from which Jelle Wallays (Team Lotto-Soudal) won just ahead of the bunch sprint.

A respite from the mountains had the sprint outfits motivated for stage 18 as they moved to the front of the bunch immediately to control a move of three riders. From the opening kilometres it looked clear that the efforts of Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Sven Eryk Bytrom (UAE Team Emirates) and Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH) would result in little as they were kept within three minutes of the peloton thanks to Quickstep Floors, Trek-Segafredo and Bora-Hansgrohe.

Despite the small advantage all day, the trio of leaders maintained a 90-second gap with 20km to go and 30seconds with 3.5km remaining. The technical roads of the city finish in Lleida assisted Wallays and Sven Erik Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates) finish the stage in the top two just centimetres ahead of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) who won the sprint from the bunch for third.

Yates was kept right towards the front of the bunch all day, particularly in the closing kilometres, and maintains his 25-second lead to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) as the race heads to Andorra tomorrow.
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Simon Yates: “It was ok today until the final, it was very fast because of the wind and that made it hard, but for the rest it was a nice day and probably the easiest of the race so far. I am looking forward to tomorrow now.”

“I was just trying to safe with my positioning in the final, there was quite a lot of roundabouts coming into town and up near the front is the safest place to be. I wasn’t thinking of bonus seconds.

“It’s going to be very difficult over the next couple of days, but we will try. I know the roads, so maybe that will help a little a bit, but it is going to be very difficult and I will give it my best shot.”

Jelle Wallays: “I came to Spain with the ambition to win a stage and today I took one! Ahead of this Grand Tour, I had one to four stages in my mind, in which I could take my chance. However, my crash after the rest day interfered with my plans, leaving me with only one opportunity. I’m so happy to have taken my chance today and realize my dream!”

Stage winner. Pic: Getty Images

“When I heard we still had an advantage of 30 seconds over the peloton, I decided to stay behind Bystrom and to no longer focus on the peloton behind us. I knew he was the fastest on paper, but I also knew that the final kilometre was uphill, with gradients of 2 to 3%. I decided to stay in his wheel and to start my sprint from there. I’ve been in similar situations before and I can keep my cool. I took a shot, but the gamble helped me to this victory, so I’m very happy I stayed in Bystrom’s wheel.”

“It wasn’t easy to escape the bunch at first. My legs didn’t feel superb, but I always need time before settling into my rhythm. And the more kilometres we covered, the better I felt. I did’t have the feeling to be the strongest in the breakaway neither, but I know I can finish strong after a long day in the breakaway, which I proved again today. The wind was also in our advantage, so we were able to ride at a significant high pace. Yesterday, I changed from gear as well, enabling me to ride even faster at this course. I think we maintained an average speed of 50 km/h during the final fifteen kilometres, which is quite fast.”

“I recovered well from the previous mountain stages. I was already in great shape ahead of the Tour de France and as soon as I heard I wasn’t part of the Tour’s selection, I focussed on this Vuelta. We came to Spain with the team to take a stage win back home and today we succeeded in our mission. After the finish it also felt like justice had been done as sports director Van Slycke called me some names earlier on the stage. That also explains my strong reaction. Then, of course, it feels good that they were not able to catch me before the finish line. No offence to the Blue squad.”

“We currently are in the possession of the polka dot jersey with Thomas De Gendt as well. Saturday will be another important day for him, but he’s really strong and motivated to defend his jersey. It would be nice to go home with a stage win and the polka dot jersey, of course. Either way, we already have our desired stage win and that’s something nobody can take from us!”

Peter Sagan: “Flat and fast stage today with a strange finish. I felt in good shape but it’s a pity I missed the win as the break managed to hold on until the end.” – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

Stage 18
1 Jelle Wallays Lotto Soudal
2 Erik Bystrøm UAE-Team Emirates
3 Peter Sagan BORA – hansgrohe
4 Elia Viviani Quick-Step Floors
5 Iván Garcia Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team
6 Danny van Poppel Team LottoNL-Jumbo

16 Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team
19 Simon Yates Mitchelton-Scott
27 Enric Mas Quick-Step Floors
36 Nairo Quintana Movistar Team

1 Simon Yates Mitchelton-Scott 73:02:37
2 Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team 0:25
3 Enric Mas Quick-Step Floors 1:22
4 Miguel López Astana Pro Team 1:36
5 Steven Kruijswijk Team LottoNL-Jumbo 1:48
6 Nairo Quintana Movistar Team 2:11



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