Vuelta a Espana 2018: Simon Yates increases lead to over a minute after stage 19

Yates (centre in red shirt) produced a superb break to take the lead in stage 19 before Pinot won on the final stretch

Britain’s Simon Yates took a big step towards winning his first Grand Tour after finishing second on stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana to increase his lead to one minute 38 seconds.

The 26-year-old, bidding to become only the second Briton to win the Vuelta after Chris Froome in 2017, was 25 seconds clear before Friday’s stage.

A superb burst saw him go clear before Thibaut Pinot won the 154.5km stage from Lleida to Coll de la Rabassa.

Nearest rival Alejandro Valverde lost ground after finishing eighth.

Saturday’s penultimate stage is a 97km ride through the mountains, ending with a gruelling 17km climb of Rabassa, before Sunday’s closing stage from Alcorcon to Madrid.

Mitchelton-Scott rider Yates made his move with 10km remaining on Friday, but Valverde, who won the race in 2009, could find no answer.

Nairo Quintana dropped back to assist his Movistar team-mate but their chase faltered when the Colombian suffered a puncture, while Yates continued to drive the pace at the front.

He beat Valverde by 67 seconds on the road and picked up another six seconds in bonuses for second place.

‘It’s not over until it’s over’

“I’m very wary of tomorrow, about what could happen in one day,” Yates insisted.

“So I’ll try to stay focused now and of course enjoy the day, but really it’s not over until it’s over.

“The team did a fantastic job again. Jack [Haig] did a really good job to set me up before I went away, and [twin brother] Adam was always behind in case I came back, so we did a fantastic job, but we’re focused on tomorrow now.

“I have to thank Thibaut for helping me. He could have easily sat on. Of course, he wanted the stage, but he could have stayed behind and not helped, but he helped, so chapeau. You don’t forget things like that very fast.”

Stage 19 result:

1. Thibaut Pinot (Fra/Groupama-FDJ) 3hrs 42mins 05secs

2. Simon Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +4secs

3. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo) +13secs

4. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale) +52secs

5. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col/Astana Pro Team) same time

6. Enric Mas (Spa/Quick-Step Floors) st

7. Wilco Kelderman (Ned/Team Sunweb) +1min 03secs

8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar Team) +1min 12secs

9. Tony Gallopin (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale) +1min 15secs

10. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar Team) +1min 49secs

Overall standings:

1. Simon Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) 76hrs 44mins 41secs

2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar Team) +1min 38secs

3. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo) +1mins 58secs

4. Enric Mas (Spa/Quick-Step Floors) +2mins 15secs

5. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col/Astana Pro Team) +2mins 29secs

6. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar Team) +4mins 01secs

7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra/Groupama-FDJ) +5mins 22secs

8. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale) +5mins 29secs

9. Ion Izagirre (Spa/Bahrain-Merida) +6mins 30secs

10. Tony Gallopin (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale) +7mins 21secs