LAGOS DE COVADONGA, Spain – Thibaut Pinot won the challenging 15th stage of the Spanish Vuelta with a dominant charge on the iconic climb into Lagos de Covadonga on Sunday, while Simon Yates stayed close and added a few seconds to his overall lead.
Pinot broke away under dense fog with about 3.7 miles to go and the Groupama-FDJ rider held on for an impressive victory after a 110.7-mile ride through the Picos de Europa mountains in northern Spain.
He crossed the line 28 seconds in front of Miguel Angel Lopez and 30 seconds ahead of Yates. Alejandro Valverde was fourth, 32 seconds off the lead.
“I went for this victory, it feels really good,” said Pinot, who already had career wins in the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. “I was obsessed with winning on all three Grand Tours and I’ve just done it.”
Yates, who made several breakaway attempts near the top, gained six seconds on Valverde, increasing his overall lead to 26 seconds. Nairo Quintana remained third, 33 seconds behind Yates and 10 seconds in front of Lopez.
“It was a very strong attack from Pinot,” Yates said. “He came from behind with a lot of power, a lot of speed ... It was difficult in the last climb. There was zero cooperation (with Quintana and Lopez) so it was difficult to do anything.”
Durango’s Sepp Kuss finished 151st on Sunday and was 37:31 behind Pinot. He is in 51st overall, more than an hour off the lead of Yates.
Monday is the second and final rest day of the three-week Grand Tour race that ends next Sunday in Madrid.
The race resumes Tuesday with a 19.8-mile time trial from Santillana del Mar to Torrelavega in northern Spain.
“I’m looking forward to the rest day and then we’ll move on to the time trial and the rest of it,” Yates said. “The gaps are still very small and the (time trial) could be the key.”