Simon Yates retained the race leader’s red jersey on stage 15 of La Vuelta to increase the likelihood of all three Grand Tours being won by Britons.
After Chris Froome’s Giro d’Italia triumph in May and Geraint Thomas’ Tour de France success in July, there could be a unique hat-trick for British cycling if Yates can hold on for another week, to the finish in Madrid.
The Mitchelton-Scott rider holds a lead of 26 seconds over Spain’s Alejandro Valverde entering today’s second rest day.
France’s Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) won yesterday’s 178.2-kilometres stage from Ribera de Arriba to Lagos de Coavadonga by 28secs from Spain’s Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana).
Pinot attacked with 6km to go to prevail, while the 26-year-old Yates was two seconds further behind in third. Valverde was fourth, conceding two more seconds to the Briton.
Team Sky’s Froome won La Vuelta 12 months ago and held all three Grand Tour titles at the same time following his Giro win earlier this year.
Froome, speaking after completing the Tour of Britain, said: “That would be massive if he can win that at this stage of his career.
“He came very close in the Giro this year, so it will be quite nice for him. It would be pretty special if Brits win all three Grand Tours. But it is a tough race and he’s got some big opponents. Let’s see how these next few days go.”
Meanwhile, France’s Julian Alaphilippe wrapped up overall victory at the OVO Energy Tour of Britain in London yesterday as Australia’s Caleb Ewan won the final stage on Regent Street.
As expected, the 77-kilometres eighth and final stage finished in a bunch sprint, with Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) winning ahead of Fernando Gaviria (QuickStep-Floors) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).
Alaphilippe protected his 17-second lead on Saturday’s penultimate stage and completed victory ahead of Holland’s Wout Poels (Team Sky) and Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo).
Scott Davies (Team Dimension Data) was the highest-placed Briton in 12th place, one minute 54 seconds behind Alaphilippe.
Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas was 36th and will be taking a rest, bringing his season to a close along with Froome. He has withdrawn from consideration for the Great Britain team for the Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria later this month. The 32-year-old said: “Physically and mentally I am not ready for it. I was suffering like a dog for an hour and a half [today].”
Thomas, however, has signed a new three-year contract with Team Sky.
The British squad announced before yesterday’s race that he will stick with the team he joined from their inception in 2010, until 2021.
Thomas said: “I’m pleased it’s sorted and delighted to be staying with the team.”
The Cardiff rider has long been a key lieutenant for Team Sky, but succeeded Froome as Tour champion in July as he realised his own potential in the sport’s biggest race.
“It really is one big happy family where my relationship with Team Sky is concerned, so I couldn’t be more delighted,” Thomas added. “It’s been a great journey for me with Team Sky and obviously the last few months have been crazy. It’s working really well for me here and I’m excited about what’s still to come.”