CYCLING: Simon Yates three stages away from a Vuelta a Espana title

The 73rd La Vuelta a Espana has essentially come down to a three-day match race between Britain’s Simon Yates and Spain’s Alejandro Valverde.

During Wednesday’s brutal uphill finish into heavy fog on Stage 17, Valverde, 38, managed to shave eight seconds off of the 26-year-old Yates’s lead and trails by 25 seconds with three stages to go.

The other “contenders” – if we can realistically call them that – are all more than a minute back, including Enric Mas (ESP: -1:33), Miguel Angel Lopez (COL: -1:36), Steven Kruijswijk (NED: -1:48) and Nairo Quintana (COL: -2:11).

The Friday and Saturday stages are both rough: Stage 19 is mostly flat, but then finishes with a long ascent of more than 1,000 m over the final 17 km and Stage 20 is the meanest of all, with six major climbs and an uphill finish at the Coll de la Gallina. Sunday’s stage is a flat, sprinter’s stage into Madrid.

True, at last May’s Giro d’Italia, Yates was riding brilliantly and wearing the Maglio Rosa after 18 stages … and then blew up. He finished 79th in Stage 19 and ended up in 21st place overall. But he seems poised to be the fifth straight Grand Tour winner from Great Britain, after Chris Froome won three in a row (Tour de France-La Vuelta-Giro d’Italia) and Geraint Thomas won the 2018 Tour.

NBC has daily coverage of La Vuelta on either NBCSN or the NBC Olympic Channel, usually beginning at 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. Eastern time. Summaries and stage notes:

UCI World Tour/La Vuelta a Espana
Spain ~ 25 August-16 September 2018
(Full results here)

Stage 1 (8.0 km Indiv. Time Trial): 1. Rohan Dennis (AUS), 9:39; 2. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL), 9:45; 3. Victor Campanaerts (BEL), 9:46; 4. Nelson Oliveira (POR), 9:56; 5. Dylan van Baarle (NED), 9:59. Also in the top 50: 15. Brent Bookwalter (USA), 10:02; … 21. Joey Rosskopf (USA), 10:07; … 24. Ben King (USA), 10:08.

Stage 2 (163.5 km): 1. Alejandro Valverde (ESP), 4:13:01; 2. Kwiatkowski (POL), 4:13:01; 2. Laurens de Plus (BEL), 4:13:04; 4. Wilco Kelderman (NED), 4:13:04; 5. George Bennett (NZL), 4:13:04. Also in the top 50: 48. Ian Boswell (USA), 4:14:06.

Stage 3 (178.2 km): 1. Elia Viviani (ITA), 4:48:12; 2. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA), 4:48:12; 3. Peter Sagan (SVK), 4:48:12; 4. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA), 4:48:12; 5. Simone Consonni (ITA), 4:48:12.

Stage 4 (161.4 km): 1. King (USA), 4:33:12; 2. Nikita Stalnov (KAZ), 4:33:14; 3. Pierre Rolland (FRA), 4:33:25; 4. Luis Angel Mate (ESP), 4:33:20; 5. Ben Gastauer (LUX), 4:34:51. Also in the top 50: 27. Sepp Kuss (USA), 4:37:04.

Stage 5 (188.7 km): 1. Simon Clarke (AUS), 4:36:07; 2. Bauke Mollema (NED), 4:36:07; 3. Alessandro de Marchi (ITA), 4:36:07; 4. Davide Villella (ITA), 4:36:15; 5. Floris de Tier (BEL), 4:36:15. Also in the top 50: 16. Bookwalter (USA), 4:39:59; 17. Kuss (USA), 4:39:49; … 24. King (USA), 4:41:02.

Stage 6 (155.7 km): 1. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA), 3:58:35; 2. Danny van Poppel (NED), 3:58:35; 3. Elia Viviani (ITA), 3:58:35; 4. Consonni (ITA), 3:58:35; 5. Matteo Trentin (ITA), 3:58:35.

Stage 7 (185.7 km): 1. Tony Gallopin (FRA), 4:18:20; 2. Sagan (SVK), 4:18:25; 3. Valverde (ESP), 4:18:25; 4. Eduard Prades (ESP), 4:18:25; 5. Omar Fraile (ESP), 4:18:25. Also in the top 50: 10. Kuss (USA), 4:18:25; … 48. King (USA), 4:20:08.

Stage 8 (195.1 km): 1. Valverde (ESP), 4:35:54; 2. Sagan (SVK), 4:35:54; 3. Van Poppel (NED), 4:35:54; 4. Ion Izagirre (ESP), 4:35:54; 5. Nizzolo (ITA), 4:35:54. Also in the top 50: 47. King (USA), 4:35:54.

Stage 9 (200.8 km): 1. King (USA), 5:30:38; 2. Mollema (NED), 5:31:26; 3.Dylan Teuns (BEL), 5:33:16; 4. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL), 5:33:18; 5. Nairo Quintana (COL), 5:33:18. Also in the top 50: 20. Kuss (USA), 5:34:10.

Stage 10 (177.0 km): 1. Viviani (ITA), 4:08:08; 2. Sagan (SVK), 4:08:08; 3. Nizzolo (ITA), 4:08:08; 4. Nelson Andres Soto (COL), 4:08:08; 5. Marc Sarreau (FRA), 4:08:08. Also in the top 50: 27. Kiel Reiknen (USA), 4:08:08.

Stage 11 (207.8 km): 1. Di Marchi (ITA), 4:52:38; 2. Jhonatan Restrepo (COL), 4:53:06; 3. Franco Pellizotti (ITA), 4:52:37; 4. Nans Peters (FRA), 4:54:02; 5. Teuns (BEL), 4:54:23. Also in the top 50: 34. Kuss (USA), 4:55.21; 35. King (USA), 4:55:21.

Stage 12 (181.1 km): 1. Alexandre Geniez (FRA), 4:22:59; 2. Dylan van Baarle (NED), 4:22:59; 3. Mark Padun (UKR), 4:22:59; 4. Teuns (BEL), 4:22:59; 5. Campanaerts (BEL), 4:23:01. Also in the top 50: 40. Kuss (USA), 4:34:38.

Stage 13 (174.8 km): 1. Oscar Rodriguez (ESP), 4:17:05; 2. Rafal Majka (POL), 4:17:24; 3. Teuns (BEL), 4:17:35; 4. 4. Bjorg Lambrecht (BEL), 4:17:43; 5. Laurens de Plus (BEL), 4:17:48. Also in the top 50: 10. King (USA), 4:18:23; … 13. Rosskopf (USA), 4:18:44.

Stage 14 (171.0 km): 1. Simon Yates (GBR), 4:19:27; 2. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL), 4:19:29; 3. Valverde (ESP), 4:19:29; 4. Thibaut Pinot (FRA), 4:19:32; 5. Nairo Quintana (COL), 4:19:34.

Stage 15 (178.2 km): 1. Pinot (FRA), 5:01:49; 2. M.A. Lopez (COL), 5:01:17; 3. S. Yates (GBR), 5:01:19; 4. Valverde (ESP), 5:01:21; 5. Steven Kruijswijk (NED), 5:01:21.

Stage 16 (Indiv. Time Trial: 32.0 km): 1. Dennis (AUS), 37:57; 2. Rosskopf (USA), 38:47; 3. Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP), 38:47; 4. Steven Kruijswijk (NED), 38:48; 5. Kwiatkowski (POL), 38:48. Also in the top 50: 37. Bookwalter (USA), 40:37.

Stage 17 (157.0 km): 1. Michael Woods (CAN), 4:09:48; 2. Teuns (BEL), 4:09:53; 3. David de la Cruz (ESP), 4:09:58; 4. Majka (POL), 4:10:01; 5. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS), 4:10:26.

Stage 18 (186.1 km): 1. Jelle Wallays (BEL), 3:57:03; 2. Sven Erik Bystrom (NOR), 3:57:03; 3. Sagan (SVK), 3:57:03; 4. Viviani (ITA), 3:57:03; 5. Ivan Garcia Cortina (ESP), 3:57:03. Also in the top 50: 40. King (USA), 3:57:03.

Stage 19: 14 September Lleida to Andorra. (154.4 km; mountains)
Stage 20: 15 September Escaldes-Engordany to Coll de la Gallina (97.3 km; mountains)
Stage 21: 16 September Alcorcon to Madrid (112.3 km; flat)

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