Australia's Kaden Groves won stage 11 of the Vuelta a España in a bunch sprint ©Getty Images

Australia's Kaden Groves triumphed in a sprint finish to win stage 11 of the Vuelta a España, on a day in which Team BikeExchange-Jayco team-mate Simon Yates dropped out after a positive COVID-19 test.

Briton Yates, winner of the Vuelta in 2018, had been fifth in the general classification at 4min 50sec behind race leader Remco Evenepoel of Belgium, riding for Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team.

However, he was forced to withdraw from the race having suffered mild COVID-19 symptoms and returned a positive test for the virus.

"During the night our rider Simon Yates had some COVID-19 symptoms with a light fever and body aches," said Team BikeExchange-Jayco doctor Dani Castillo.

"We carried out a COVID-19 test this morning and unfortunately, he has returned a positive test result, and will therefore not be taking to the start line of today’s 11th stage, with rider health and wellbeing our priority."

French rider Pavel Sivakov of Ineos Grenadiers, ninth after 10 stages of the race, is also out of the Vuelta after testing positive for COVID-19, although he reported that he is "asymptomatic".

Team BikeExchange-Jayco responded to the setback of Yates' absence by propelling Groves to a first Grand Tour stage victory in 5hrs 3min 14sec after a mostly flat 191.2 kilometres route from ElPozo Alimentacion in Alhama de Murcia to Cabo de Gata.

He pipped The Netherlands' Danny van Poppel of Bora-Hansgrohe and Belgium's Tim Merlier of Alpecin-Deceuninck across the finish line.

"It feels fantastic, with the news this morning of Simon going positive for COVID, all the boys were pretty disappointed, and this is the best way to bounce back after such bad news," Groves said afterwards.

"I’m really happy to celebrate, but I also wish he was here, because he’s a part of this team."

Evenepoel finished safely in the peloton to preserve his 2:41 lead over Slovenia's Primož Roglič of Jumbo-Visma, with the Olympic road cycling time trial gold medallist bidding for a fourth consecutive Vuelta victory.

Enric Mas of Spain and Movistar Team remains third at 3:03 off the pace in the general classification.

However, the 11th stage also marked the end of the Vuelta for Evenepoel's team-mate Julian Alaphilippe of France.

The back-to-back road race world champion crashed out with 64km remaining and was taken to hospital with a dislocated right shoulder.

Tomorrow's 192.7km 12th stage starting in Salobreña is mostly flat until a tough climb up Peñas Blancas above Estepona to conclude.