Here's how Simon Yates extended his overall lead and Pinot took his second win of the race.
Lleida - Coll de la Rabassa
Vuelta a España - 14 September 2018
Vuelta a España – Follow this cycling race live with Eurosport. The action starts at 13:30 on 14 September 2018. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.
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So, Simon Yates buries his Stage 19 nightmare from the Giro by stretching his overall lead in the corresponding stage in the Vuelta. He now has a gap of 1'38" over nearest rival Valverde, with Kruijswijk back into the podium positions.
Confirmation of the top 10 on today's stage.
Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First), Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) arrive about one minute down before Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) comes home 1'10" down or thereabouts, a few seconds down on Wilco Kelderman of Team Sunweb.
Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) takes seconds place four seconds down, with Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) third.
Victory for Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) - his second of the race.
Pinot kicks clear!
Uran and Mas catch Lopez and they drop Kelderman. Out ahead, it's Yates who drives the pace ahead of Pinot.
Inside the last kilometre now and Kruijswijk has been dropped...
Mas then puts in a dig which puts Valverde under pressure. Lopez then counters and he rides clear to catch Kelderman. Gallopin must have been caught and passed...
Lopez ups the tempo. Mas, Valverde and Uran join him but Bilbao and Quintana have been distanced.
Two clicks to go now and still Yates drives the tempo. He'll like to take the win and bonus seconds, for sure.
Now Yates sets the tempo on the front of this leading trio. Gallopin is still between Kelderman and the other chasers, who are closing in on the Frenchman.
Pinot puts in a dig but it's short-lived: Kruijswijk and Yates keep their cool and manage to reel him in.
Kelderman is about 35 seconds down on the three leaders, who lead the chasers - Mas, Adam Yates, Uran, Lopez, Valverde, Quintana, Bilbao - by just over a minute.
Kelderman rides solo in pursuit after the others failed to close the gap. Tony Gallopin has now ridden clear of the chasing group - just before Quintana rejoins them following his mechanical. The gradient is not huge and many of them - most notably Simon Yates - are doing this in the big ring.
Now Kelderman ups the tempo and that's matched by Mas and the others. Mas is under pressure from Kruijswijk, who could take his place on the podium at this rate. Oh, and puncture for Quintana! The Colombian needs a rear wheel change... what bad luck!
It looks like Quintana was called back by his team management. It makes sense: with Yates on the front with him, the Colombian was no longer going to pose a threat, and so he's best used dropping back to help Valverde. The gap is up to 25 seconds now.
Ion Izagirre has been dropped by the chasing group, where the likes of Valverde, Mas, Lopez, Kelderman, Majka, Bilbao, Uran, Mas, Adam Yates and Hirt are all gathered. AND QUINTANA BLOWS! The Colombian drops back from the leaders - has he hit the wall or is he going back to help his team-mate Valverde?
What confidence from Simon Yates, who is now driving this four-man leading group and piling the pressure onto Quintana, who is struggling to hold on.
YATES ATTACKS! Attack fire with fire - and that's what the red jersey does, once team-mate Jack Haig peels off. As a result, the main group is blown apart with the likes of Zakarin and Emanuel Buchmann dropped.
Pinot is driving the tempo now. He won on Lagos de Covadonga and clearly eyes another win today. He's 5'31" down in 9th place on GC so is no real threat to Simon Yates, but in combination with Quintana (+2'11") and Kruijswijk (+1'48") he could cause some trouble. For now, however, they only have 15 seconds.
Now Pinot attacks! The Frenchman dances clear and bridges over to Quintana and Kruijswijk, so this is a really strong trio now - but the gap is only small: we're talking 10 seconds or so for now.
New Zealander Bennett winds up so it's now just Kruijswijk and Quintana out ahead. Meanwhile, the likes of Fabio Aru and David de la Cruz have been dropped.
Just a small gap for these three leaders as Yates keeps his cool at the head of the main pack behind. The Briton has Jack Haig alongside him and their numbers are down to 20 riders in this group.
ATTACK: Nairo Quintana rides clear! Now is this a softening attack for his Movistar leader Valverde, or is he thinking about his own ambitions? The Colombian is joined by the Lotto duo of Kruijswijk and Bennett.
Anacona's time is done and the Columbian drops back. This leading group is now being driven by George Bennett with his LottoNL-Jumbo team-mate Kruijswijk behind. The Dutchman was up to third three days ago after the time trial but lost some time at Balcon de Bizkaia to drop to fifth, which is where he finished in Paris in the Tour.
Winner Anacona still setting a fierce tempo and behind he has four LottoNL-Jumbo riders including Sepp Kuss, who is pacing Stevie Kruijswijk. Simon Yates peels off the to side and looks back, surveying the scene and weighing up his opposition. He will see that this leading group is down to about 40 riders now. He still has Jack Haig and his brother Adam Yates, but Vincenzo Nibali is the latest big-name rider to drop off the pack like a stone.
Local knowledge from the Irishman who lives in Andorra.
Here's an alternative profile map for the climb. That man Thibaut Pinot is right in the mix, as is Miguel Angel Lopez - but they're both keeping their powder dry a bit further back.
Anacona is still on the front tapping out a fast tempo but Quintana chooses to drop back a little. LottoNL-Jumbo and Mitchelton Scott have riders there, as do Quick-Step - working for their men Steven Kruijwsijk, Simon Yates and Enric Mas respectively. Already the main pack is down to around 100 riders with numerous men - including Peter Sagan - off the back.
Castroviejo and then Benjamin Thomas are caught just as the pack hits the start of the Cat.1 Coll de la Rabassa (17km at 6.6%). Movistar take it up straight away through Winner Anacona and Nairo Quintana.
Typically, the Spanish TV crew miss the intermediate sprint - but it's the two escapees who take the points just ahead of the peloton. We'll update when we hear it.
There's a lot of jostling in the pack because we have that intermediate sprint coming right up ahead of the start of the climb...
Our two leaders have passed through the frontier between Spain and Andorra. They have one minute to play with.
We've passed through La Seu d'Urgell, which is where the rafting events of the Barcelona Olympics in 1994 were held. I cycled through here with my pal Rowan, too, a couple of summers ago, but that wasn't so wet or athletic.
There are 10pts up for grabs in the KOM competition so unless Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) wins the stage today, Belgum's Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) - who leads the Spaniard by 10pts - will keep the polka dot jersey going into tomorrow's final day in the mountains.
We have the intermediate sprint coming up and it will be interesting to see if Peter Sagan contests it. He's 18pts behind Alejandro Valverde in the green jersey points classification and so could feasibly pick up enough points here and on the finish at Madrid to secure the green. But then again, the Spaniard will surely get points today at the finish, and perhaps tomorrow, so it could well all be immaterial.
It comes back together on the front - but numerous riders have been tailed off the back after that little scare. Meanwhile, the two leaders see their advantage slashed to 1'32".
SPLIT IN THE PELOTON: Movistar's pace-setting causes a split in the pack as the first 20-odd riders open up a gap - and the red jersey of Simon Yates is caught out!
All eight Movistar riders are driving the pace on the front of the pack, with a few Mitchelton-Scotts tucked in behind. The calm before the storm. Steve Cummings, meanwhile, is rooted to the back of the pack.
Simon Yates is currently off the back of the pack picking up fresh bidons ahead of the climb. He has a chat to Matt White, the Mitchelton-Scott DS, before riding back onto the peloton with team-mate Michael Albasini.
The gap is up to 2'20" for our two leaders. Yesterday, two escapees defied the peloton and held on to contest the win; that was yesterday. The same will not happen today.
A good performance by Sky's David de la Cruz today and tomorrow could put the Spaniard into the top 10. He's currently 9'55" down in 13th but would need to find 3'50" to move into the top 10. "It’s being a complicated La Vuelta," De la Cruz told lavuelta.es this morning. "I came here with the goal of fighting for GC and I’m bit off, but we have two stages left to bring on some battle and fight for a stage win. (At Blacon de Bizkaia) I was calculating when to go or not, I hope it will work out better today and tomorrow. We hope a break will make it today and we can be there. And if not, we’ll try it in the last climb."
Team Sky are yet to win a stage in this Vuelta, neither do they have any riders in the top 10. The last time Sky failed to win a stage of a Grand Tour was the 2014 Vuelta. In fact, they didn't win any stages in any of the Grand Tours in 2014, which was a low-point for the British team. Can Jonathan Castroviejo change that today?
Castroviejo and Thomas combine well to stretch out the lead to 1'50" as they pass a deep blue lake. Behind, Movistar have still not let up, but they have eased a little. Valverde, who is in the green jersey, rides forward to give a pep talk to all his team-mates. They are clearly planning a coup today. It's interesting because, in recent history, the Spanish veteran has come up short on high altitude finishes. Which makes me think that perhaps this is all a red herring and that Valverde is going to be the decoy to a huge attack from Quintana...
Like his team-mate Clarke before, Van Asbroeck drops back from a leading trio of riders. The Belgian probably felt that more riders would come with them - and seeing that the gap is still only 1'15", he calls it a day. So, just the two riders in the lead now: Castroviejo and Thomas (no, not the Welsh Tour winner, the French one called Benjamin).
Our three leaders have 1'10" to play with. None of them are a GC threat - Van Asbroeck, the best placed, is more than two hours in arrears - but Movistar want to keep tabs on this because they fancy a win for their man Valverde today.
That trio has 15 seconds on the pack, but that may well stretch out because it looks like the peloton has sat up.
The fast pace has seen a handful of riders drop out the back of the pack. We're also hearing that Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors) has withdrawn.
Three riders out ahead now: Tom Van Asbroeck (EF Education First), Jonathan Castroviejo (Team Sky) and Benjamin Thomas (Groupama-FDJ).
De Marchi and Rolland were joined by Igor Anton (Cofidis), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) Sergio Henao, Michal Kwiatkowski (both Team Sky) and José Herrada (Cofidis). But it came to nothing.
Movistar have five on the front leading the chase - they're really pushing on, probably for a number of reasons. Firstly, they're not too keen to give any break much leeway because they want the stage to come down to a battle between the red jersey favourites because that could mean 10 bonus seconds to Valverde should he win. Then there's the need to knacker out the opposition. They will hope to keep the pace high and the pressure on Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team in a bid to isolate the Briton before the steep stuff.
Another move goes off the front with Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) and Pierre Rolland (EF Education First-Drapac) joined by two riders, then another two, and then one more, who is in the process of bridging over. They're on a wide, straight road that kicks up on this gradual rise, and behind the peloton is all strung out.
Those nine riders are up to 12 not - but they're only a few bike lengths in front of the pack and it will come back together again. Very fast pace so far thanks to a steady tailwind.
With the break's advantage coming down, there's a flurry of counter-attacks from the break - and we now have nine men out ahead at the foot of another uncategorised hill.
Interestingly, Simon 'Simo' Clarke - who won Stage 5 at Roquetas de Mar before setting up EF Education First-Drapac team-mate Michael 'Rusty' Woods in Stage 17 - has sat up from the break. Either the Australian is not feeling any good, or he's decided that there's no point in pursuing this one. With the gap falling to 35 seconds, perhaps it's the latter.
We join the stage LIVE with 105km remaining and that break of three riders holding a gap of 1'35" over a Movistar-led peloton. The Spanish team have two cards to play today: Valverde is the nearest challenger to Yates, but Nairo Quintana may be 2'11" down in sixth place, but he can't be discounted. After all, it was in this corresponding stage in the Giro where Chris Froome made his huge comeback and when Yates plummeted out of the pink.
The pace was high for the first 40-odd kilometres allowing for no break to form. Finally three riders opened up a small gap: Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), Simon Clarke (Education First-Drapac) and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Dimension Data).
One non-starter today: Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe).
The remaining 159 riders rolled out of Lleida under sunshine and blue skies with the temperature around the 22-degrees mark. So, ideal conditions for racing, all in all.
Here's the official profile for the stage with the only categorised test coming at the end. The official stats for the Cat.1 Coll de la Rabassa is 17km at 6.6% but the road heads uphill well before the actual climb gets started, and the maximum peak is pushing 14% near the start. It's also the first and only time in this year's race that the riders go higher than 2,000 metres.
There were no changes in the general classification yesterday as race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) came home safely in the pack alongside his Spanish rivals Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors). Yates now enters two decisive days in Andorra with a gap of 25 seconds over Valverde and 1’22” over Mas, with the Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and the Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) poised at 1’36” and 1’48” respectively. View image on Twitter
Yesterday, Belgium’s Jelle Wallays took a gloriously unexpected victory ahead of Norway’s Sven Erik Bystrom in Stage 18 of La Vuelta after the two plucky escapees defied the rampaging peloton and kept the sprinters in the shade in Lleida. Despite the peloton breathing down their necks, Wallays kept his cool and then darted from the back wheel of Bystrom, holding on for the biggest win of his career and roaring with delight as he crossed the line one bike length ahead of Bystrom.
Hola! Welcome to live coverage of the first of two back-to-back days in the Pyrenees - a slow-building 154.4km slog from Lleida into Andorra which culminates on the long but gradual grind of the Coll de la Rabassa. A day of destiny for Simon Yates and his red jersey rivals.