Yates conquers Vallter 2000 to beat host of contenders

Adam Yates took his first win for INEOS Grenadiers in Stage 3 of Volta a Catalunya, jumping clear of a stellar field of climbers and taking victory solo at the summit finish.

100th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2021 - Stage 3, Adam Yates

The Vallter 2000 was the setting for Adam Yates of INEOS Grenadiers winning Stage 3 of the Volta a Catalunya. Source: Getty

Some of the best climbers in the world were out in force to tackle the heights of the Vallter 2000, the major climbing test at the Volta a Catalunya, with the imposing summit peaking at 2,243 metres above sea level.

Yates finally dropped his most tenacious limpets, Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with 1.8 kilometres remaining, soloing clear to take the stage honours and the race lead.

“It was perfect in the end," said Yates. "We had cards to play like we knew in the beginning, and we played them well with Richie (Carapaz) going with the early move and then I came across and just kept going. In the end, I had enough momentum and speed to go straight past. I still had Kuss and Alejandro with me but I managed to drop them. It's my first victory for the team and I'm really happy.”

Behind Yates, his former teammate Esteban Chaves (Team BikeExchange) displayed a sparkling return to form, his late flying attack seeing him finish second, coming surprisingly close to hunting down Yates. Valverde finished in third and Yates now holds the leader's green and white jersey by 45 seconds over Richie Porte (INEOS Grenadiers) with former leader Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in third overall four seconds further adrift.

“I don't know time gaps yet," said Yates. "Tonight we'll sit down and have a look and see what it is but first we'll celebrate today."

Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-Assos), Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Qhubeka Assos), Clément Venturini (AG2R Citroën), Francisco Galván (Kern Pharma), Alexander Kamp (Trek-Segafredo), Thomas Champion (Cofidis), Colin Joyce (Rally), Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) and Australian Alex Evans (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) were in the early move of the day that formed on the early flat section of the course.

Evans is known as a pure climber, a rider who has prodigious talent but had found the opening two stages of the Volta a Catalunya tough, sitting last overall heading into the stage.

With 120km to go, the gap was up to the sizeable advantage of 12 minutes and 25 seconds and so the highest placed rider in the move, Galván, became the virtual race leader on the road. Deceuninck-QuickStep led the chase in defence of Almeida’s race lead, with Jumbo-Visma also pulling at the head of affairs.

The gap was steadily brought down by the effect of the pace-making in the main bunch, but the gap still stood at five minutes with 35 kilometres to go.

Deceuninck-QuickStep reignited the chase, with INEOS Grenadiers the second in line as the gap came tumbling down.

The break fell apart on the run to the base of the climb proper as the gradient gradually increased from flat, to false flat, to uphill slog to full-blown climbing.

Evans was one of the last to be dropped from the move as the road tilted upwards, by nine kilometres from the finish it was clear that Arensman was the strongest from the move and would have to solo to victory with just a one minute and thirty-second lead on the peloton with it all uphill to the finish.

It was Valverde who started the aggression in the main bunch, going on the attack and sparking what would be a highly entertaining final climb. Porte covered the move along with some of the other top climbers but there was little assistance for the Spanish veteran.

The move was brought back as Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) upped the pace and Valverde surged again with Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) chasing him. Then Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) attacked, surging clear in an all-South American attack as Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) went with him.

Adam Yates bided his time and waited for the steepest sections of the climb with around five kilometres to race, where he launched his first assault. Only Kuss could go initially go with him and they caught up with Valverde, who battled but managed to hold onto the pair.

Behind, almost all team helpers were gone from the peloton as only the elite climbers remained to battle and the main teams with numbers, INEOS Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma, with riders up the road.

Arensman was finally caught at 3.5 kilometres to go, eventually finishing 30th on the day.

Adam Yates responded to an attack from Kuss and then went himself with 1.8km to go, dropping the American, who subsequently blew up, with Valverde over-taking him in the run to the line.

Adam Yates pushed out his advantage to the summit and had time to celebrate his first win for Ineos Grenadiers. The only rider to close significant distance in the finale was a flying Esteban Chaves who turned back the clock with a fine ride for second on the day.

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5 min read
Published 25 March 2021 at 8:11am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS