No country has ever before won the three Grand Tours in the same year with three different riders. Earlier this year, Chris Froome won the Giro d’Italia and Geraint Thomas the Tour de France, and after tomorrow’s largely ceremonial sprint stage, Simon Yates will secure the Vuelta a Espana to complete the set.
The final mountain stage from Escaldes-Engordany to Coll de la Gallina squeezed in six categorised climbs despite being only 97.3km in length. It’s fair to say that flat roads weren’t in plentiful supply.
A large break went early with Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) doing enough to secure the mountains classification.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) accelerated and opened a gap on the descent from Coll de Beixalis with 29km to go. He was joined by countryman Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana).
On the penultimate climb, Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) decided that he might as well do the job properly and attacked the group of favourites. Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) – chasing a podium spot – went with him and the two riders soon bridged across to Quintana and Lopez.
At the foot of the final climb, the four riders had a 30s advantage over the chasing group, which included second-placed Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Just as he did the day before, Quintana dropped back to help his team leader.
With 7km to go, Yates lost touch with Lopez and Mas, but the gap to Valverde didn’t shrink. In fact, with 4km to go, the Spaniard cracked and despite Quintana’s best efforts, the Vuelta had been decided.
Mas took the stage and moved up to second overall, while Valverde lost minutes, meaning Lopez moved up to third.
Speaking afterwards, Yates said: “Yes, I’ve made it. It’s still sinking in. I’m incredibly proud. I’m also incredibly proud of the team. They’ve carried me for these entire three weeks. It’s the first Grand Tour for the team. It’s just unbelievable.
"Adam (Yates) was running out of legs (when Simon attacked in the penultimate climb) and I didn’t want to end up in a position where I could have been riding in the valley, that would have been the worst situation possible.
"I knew Quintana and Lopez were up the road and Lopez had something to win so I figured maybe he could work with me. Sometimes attack is the best defence.
"In the last climb I was ok. I was at my limit. Mas and Lopez were riding incredible. I just tried to make my own rhythm. I gave everything I had and thankfully it was enough.”