Adam Yates revealed he had always planned to be aggressive in the first week of the Tour de France after narrowly missing out on victory in stage two.
Yates, 28, missed the chance of becoming the ninth British rider to claim the yellow jersey as he finished third, one second behind French winner Julian Alaphilippe in a three-man sprint.
Switzerland’s Marc Hirschi snatched second place at the end of the 186km-stage, which started and finished in Nice, but Yates is relishing this year’s challenge.
“I said to the team last winter I wanted to come to the Tour and be aggressive in the first week,” said the Mitchelton-Scott rider, who has signed a deal to move to British team Ineos from next year.
“They’ve allowed me to do that so here we are, stage two and amongst it. There’s plenty of opportunities to come.”
Yates, who has finished 29th overall in both the previous two Tours, appeared to move effortlessly on to the tail of leading pair Alaphilippe and Hirschi after they had broken clear on the final ascent with 13km to go.
“Even on the climbs in the beginning there was a solid pace and you could feel the fatigue when we climbed the first time,” Yates said.
“You could see a lot of people suffering, just like me. Then on the final (climb) I got away with the other two guys.
“The little fella (Hirschi) wasn’t contributing much, but in the end we started working well towards the end.
“I was never going to win that sprint anyway, they’re both faster than me, so I can be happy with third. It’s been a good day.”
They were almost caught as they played cat and mouse with the finish line beckoning, but Deceuninck–Quick-Step rider Alaphilippe’s final burst saw him pip Hirschi (Sunweb), with Yates just behind.
Alaphilippe, who sealed his fifth Tour de France stage win in a time of four hours 55 minutes and 27 seconds, took the yellow jersey from stage one winner Alexander Kristoff.
Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) emerged from the chasing peloton to finish fourth ahead of Colombia’s Sergio Andres Higuita (EF Pro Cycling) and Holland’s Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), who was sixth.
Alaphilippe leads the general classification in a time of 8:41.35, four seconds ahead of second-placed Yates, with Hirschi a further three seconds back and Higuita in fourth.
Home favourite Alaphilippe, who is carrying the weight of a nation after unexpectedly spending 14 days in the yellow jersey in last year’s race, dedicated his stage win to his late father.
“There’s big emotion because I’ve won on the Tour,” Alaphilippe said. “I haven’t won since the start of the season, so I’ve been working really hard.
“I’ve been working hard when it’s been really tough due to Covid and I want to dedicate this victory to my father, who died in June.
“I got to the last climb and gave it my all up that climb and having Adam Yates and Hirschi come up as well made me nervous, but we collaborated well into a headwind, which was tough, but I made it.”