TORRELAVEGA, Spain (Reuters) – Briton Simon Yates edged closer towards winning the Vuelta a Espana on Tuesday, increasing his tight lead over Alejandro Valverde to 33 seconds after stage 16 following a 32km time trial from Santillana del Mar to Torrelavega.
Australian Rohan Dennis won the stage in style, finishing a full 50 seconds faster than runner-up Joseph Rosskopf and third-placed Jonathan Castroviejo. Yates was 13th on the day, one minute and 28 seconds slower than Dennis.
The best performer of the general classification hopefuls was Steven Kruijswijk who finished third, 51 seconds down from Dennis, enabling him to leapfrog Nairo Quintana into third place overall, 52 seconds behind Yates.
2016 Vuelta champion Quintana had seen the gap behind Yates steadily increase in the previous two mountain stages, and he suffered further in the time trial, coming 42 seconds after Yates on the day and dropping one minute 15 seconds behind him overall into fourth.
Stage winner Dennis will not be continuing in the race, however, confirming an expected withdrawal from the Vuelta after the time trial in order to prepare for the world championships in Innsbruck, Austria.
The Vuelta returns to the mountains on Wednesday with a 157km route from Getxo to Balcon de Bizkaia in the Basque country, the first of three summit finishes in the space of four days before the race concludes on Sunday in Madrid.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Hugh Lawson)