Simon Yates was lost for words after claiming his maiden Grand Tour win at the Vuelta a Espana, sealing a superb three weeks for both himself and his Mitchelton-Scott team.
Yates becomes the third British rider to win a Grand Tour this year, after Giro champion Chris Froome and Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas.
He is also the fourth Brit to win a Grand Tour, after those two and Sir Bradley Wiggins, and the first to do so outside of Team Sky.
Indeed, his win with Mitchelton-Scott is significant in more ways too – the first ever for an Australian team.
He had looked set to earn that record at the Giro d’Italia earlier in the year, when he won three stages and led the race for 13 days only for his challenge to fade on stage 19.
And the Brit, 26, admitted the magnitude of his achievement was still yet to hit him after being presented with the red jersey in Madrid.
“It feels great. Really unbelievable, I think it’s still sinking in,” he said. “I have no words, it’s just really unbelievable.
“I like to race on my instinct and I hope that I continue to do so and achieve more big results like this at the Vuelta a Espana.
“I came back from real heartbreak from the Giro d’Italia and I am still in shock that I’ve managed to pull it off and it will take a while for it to sink in just what we’ve accomplished.
“I get really nervous up on the stage, but it was a very special moment that I will cherish forever.”
Yates first took the race lead on stage nine and, after briefly letting the red jersey go, reclaimed it in style with victory on stage 14 at Les Praeres – the fifth Grand Tour stage win of his short career.
The former Tour de France white jersey winner then held the jersey all the way to Madrid, impressing with a strong time trial – previously one of his weaker disciplines – and then finishing second and third on the final two mountain stages in Andorra to seal victory.
And the Bury-born rider, who counted twin brother Adam among his team-mates for this year’s race, admitted it was only after stage 19 that he dared to believe he could win.
“The day I won on stage 14 is probably my favourite moment from the race, getting your hands in the air, there’s no feeling like winning a bike race and that will hold a special place, but also the first stage in Andorra,” he said.
“That was the first day I laid everything on the line to try and win this race and I managed to get a bit of a gap and you start to believe that you may have it, so those two days really stand out for me.”
Yates has now claimed eight victories this season, with his Vuelta win also representing the first time three different riders from the same nation have won Grand Tours in the same season.
Chris Froome only became the first Brit to win the Vuelta a Espana 12 months ago, and British riders have now won the last five consecutive Grand Tours – Tom Dumoulin’s 2017 Giro triumph the last non-British success.
Yates ultimately finished 1’46” clear of second-placed Enric Mas (QuickStep Floors), with Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) rounding off the podium – finishing third, just as he did at the Giro.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was crowned points champion, having been Yates’ nearest challenger for much of the race until falling away to finish fifth, while Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) was crowned King of the Mountains.
Vuelta a Espana 2018: result
1) Simon Yates (GBR) – Mitchelton-Scott – 82hrs 05'58"
2) Enric Mas (ESP) – QuickStep Floors +1'46"
3) Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) – Astana +2'04"
4) Steven Kruijswijk (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo +2'54"
5) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +4'28"
6) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – Groupama-FDJ +5'57"
7) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – EF-Drapac +6'07"
8) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +6'51"
9) Ion Izagirre (ESP) – Bahrain-Merida +11'09"
10) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Team Sunweb +11'11"