SABERO, Spain – Simon Yates cut in half Jesus Herrada’s Spanish Vuelta lead in a 13th stage won by Oscar Rodriguez on Friday.
Rodriguez dominated the difficult climb up La Camperona to clinch the victory in the 109-mile stage from Carreno to Sabero in northwestern Spain.
The Spaniard broke away in the final kilometer to cross the line 19 seconds in front of Rafal Majka and 30 seconds ahead of Dylan Teuns.
“When Majka went in the final climb, I thought I wouldn’t be able to follow him until the top, that it was lost,” Rodriguez said. “But then I got closer ... I saw their faces of pain, I went just a bit harder and I went away.
“I’m a rider who suffers with the changes of pace. I figured I’d better climb at my rhythm ... I’m going to enjoy this victory to the fullest, because wins are rare.”
Durango’s Sepp Kuss finished 87th on Friday. The 23-year-old Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider, used as a support rider for his teammates chasing general classification results, was 11:34 behind Rodriguez. He slipped a few spots in the GC to 41st, 26:31 behind lead Herrada.
Herrada’s lead of more than three minutes – which he earned on Thursday – was cut to 1 minute, 42 seconds, after a great mountain charge by Yates.
“The legs are really tired, to be honest,” Herrada said. “I have had a cold for two days, I can feel the body is at the limit. I suffered a lot. The last climb was really hard, with some very hard sections. I tried to maintain my rhythm and lose as little time as possible.”
Veteran Nairo Quintana had an even better run up the mountain and was the first contender to reach the finish, moving into third place overall, eight seconds behind Yates.
“It was important to start gaining time and we achieved that,” Quintana said. “We have to wait for the longer climbs to see where we really stand.”
Alejandro Valverde dropped to fourth overall, 12 seconds behind Yates.
Riders will face another demanding mountain stage on Saturday, a 106-mile ride from Cistierna to Nava.
The three-week Grand Tour race will end Sept. 16 in Madrid.