Steven Kruijswijk jumped back up to third place in the overall standings after an aggressive Vuelta a España stage 19. The 31-year-old leader of Team LottoNL-Jumbo rode clear early, at 13km out, and finished third in the lead trio with Thibaut Pinot and race leader Simon Yates.
The stage turned into a true battlefield. Kruijswijk was well-positioned in the front by his teammates all day. On the final climb, Kruijswijk rode away quite quickly from his rivals with teammate George Bennett. Only Pinot, Quintana and Yates, a little later, were able to follow.
In the final kilometre, Kruijswijk couldn't follow Pinot and Yates, but he kept a sufficient lead of one minute over his closest rivals.
"It went better than two days ago, even though I had a difficult moment in the end. We did a good job today," Kruijswijk said.
"In the end, I didn't have much energy left, so I was lucky that I could stay in their wheels. I knew Pinot was going for the stage win and Yates wanted to take as much time as possible on Movistar. It was ideal for me. Luckily, I took time back again."
"The team did a good job today. Especially George, who was worth his weight in gold on the final climb. He responded to an attack from Quintana and to my surprise, nobody followed.
"We pulled through. It also surprised me that Yates joined us. But in the end, that was very beneficial for me. I was able to benefit from it and to sit on a bit out of the wind. "
Kruijswijk remains realistic about his chances to be on the overall podium in Madrid.
"Tomorrow is a new day. Today, I took time back, maybe tomorrow, I will lose time again," he continued.
"It will be a short, but very challenging stage. We have to race smartly and divide our powers. The team is strong and we are definitely going to try to defend it. It would be nice if we are still on the podium after the stage tomorrow evening."