Canadian rider Michael Woods celebrates after winning the 17th stage of the 2018 La Vuelta cycling tour. Photo: Manuel Bruque/EPA

SPAIN – Britain's Simon Yates held on to his overall lead in the Tour of Spain on Wednesday as Canada's Michael Woods won a summit finish to the 17th stage in the Basque Country.

Yates lost eight seconds to his nearest rival, Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde, whose teammate Nairo Quintana was dropped on the final climbs.

Yates was protected all the way up the final climb by his brother Adam and two of his teammates.

The 31-year-old Woods only began cycling seriously in his mid-20s and came seventh at la Vuelta last year before a second place finish in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege this season.

Overcome with emotion Woods cried as he dedicated the win to his recently stillborn son.

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“There were so many people on the roadside egging me on and my team manager was encouraging me to do it for my family,” a weeping Woods said.
“My wife and I lost our son recently, his name was Hunter and this is for him.”

British rider Simon Yates retains the overall leader's red jersey. Photo: Manuel Bruque/EPA
British rider Simon Yates retains the overall leader's red jersey. Photo: Manuel Bruque/EPA

Woods, who earlier had sported a large black Basque beret on the podium, got involved in an early escape group and edged out Dylan Teuns of BMC on the ultra-steep final section while Sky's David de la Cruz came third.

The day's biggest loser was Quintana, who now sits 2min 11sec down on Yates.

In second place the 38-year-old Valverde, and the Movistar man remains Yates's most dangerous rival with Enric Mas in third at 1min 22sec after climbing up the rankings on Tuesday's time-trial.

Two further days of climbing remain on Saturday and Sunday, where the winner of this year's Vuelta will certainly be decided.

Agence France-Presse (AFP)