Adam Yates used the final road stage of the Vuelta a España to climb up to fourth overall as Frenchman Clément Champoussin claimed a surprise victory in a frantic finale.
Yates had been thinking more of stage honours than the general classification himself, but though he could not match the late attack of AG2R La Mondiale’s Champoussin, the Ineos Grenadiers rider moved up as his teammate Egan Bernal slipped away and Miguel Ángel López dramatically imploded.
With a 34km time trial to Santiago de Compostela to come in Sunday’s finale, Yates now sits one minute behind Jack Haig and the final podium position, while two-time defending champion Primoz Roglic leads overall by two minutes and 38 seconds from Enric Mas.
Champoussin had been part of a large breakaway that led by 12 minutes midway through the 202km stage from Sanxenxo to Mos, only to let that slip away as the Grenadiers put the power down in the second half.
As the peloton splintered, López and Bernal – third and fifth overall at the start of the day – were in a group that fell behind, with an emotional López abandoning the race before the stage finish as his ambitions crumbled around him.
After the final escapee, Ryan Gibbons was caught on the last climb, Yates, Roglic, and Mas all tried attacks in search of the stage win but it was the late dart of Champoussin, 1500 metres from the line, which proved decisive.
Gaining two places overall was some consolation for Yates, though the 29-year-old admitted it was not his goal.
“I’m quite far down on the GC so it was that stage I really wanted to try and win,” he said. “I tried my best but it wasn’t enough.
“You need to drop everyone, especially when there are fast guys in the group. I tried a few times and that’s all you can do. It wasn’t good enough and we’ll try again next time.”