Quick-Step Floors’ Enric Mas narrowly claimed victory on the penultimate stage of the Vuelta a Espana atop Coll de la Gallina today.
The Spaniard completed the 97.3km 20th stage in 2:59:30, edging Astana Pro’s Miguel Ángel López to the line.
Red-jersey-wearer Simon Yates of Mitchelton-Scott finished third. In so doing the British rider placed one hand on the Vuelta title going into today’s final procession stage.
Should Yates complete the formality today, it will mean Britain will hold all three of cycling’s Grand Tours at the same time for the first time in history. Chris Froome won the Giro d’Italia in May and Geraint Thomas claimed the Tour de France in July.
But it was Mas and Lopez who caused a major change at the top of the general classification standings today, moving into second and third place respectively.
In the opening kilometres of the race, following a series of climbs, the field already began to shake up when a 15-man break got away.
The leading group split into two over the next few kilometres, with an eight-man group followed by a smaller chasing group.
The leaders built up a 2:52 gap over the peloton with 64km to go. Yates was in the peloton, but he had much support around him.
With 37km remaining Michał Kwiatkowski, David de la Cruz and Rafał Majka were all that remained of the breakaway, as they held a 50-second lead.
Mitchelton-Scott then brought the groups back together as the riders started a climb about 30km from the end.
Yates continued to stay out of trouble as his brother Adam took control of their chase for Nairo Quintana, who had broken away moments before.
Quintana was joined by López at the front with about 20km left, but they held only a narrow 10-second lead.
With 17km to go, Simon Yates attacked and got away from his GC rivals. Mas, however, was able to cling onto Yates and followed his lead.
The two eventually linked up with Lopez and Quintana at the front as the quartet led the race with 10km to go, just before the final climb.
Quintana was dropped from the quartet with 7km to go, as Mas jumped up to second on the virtual standings.
Yates began to ride a lot more conservatively and dropped out of the leading group with just over 5km remaining.
Mas and Lopez, at the front, were not looking to topple Yates, but rather to unseat Alejandro Valverde and fight for second spot on the GC.
Valverde began to fade and lose more time on the virtual standings as the stage drew to a close.
Lopez and Mas battled it out in the closing kilometre for a spot on the overall Vuelta podium.
The two attacked with about 100m to go up a climb to the finish, but Mas managed to just take the spoils. Yates followed in third, 23 seconds back and did enough to secure his race title.
Valverde dropped to fifth after the stage.