Adam Yates switches focus to first Tour stage win

Adam Yates is ready to go on the attack at the Tour de France after four days defending the yellow jersey.

The Mitchelton-Scott rider became the ninth Brit to wear yellow at the Tour when a time penalty for Julian Alaphilippe thrust him into the race lead at the end of stage five into Privas.

The 28-year-old could not quite hold it until the first rest day, surrendering the jersey to pre-race favourite Primoz Roglic on Sunday’s stage into Laruns, but that frees Yates to refocus on his original target of taking what would be a first career Tour stage win.

“From the beginning I came here for stages,” said Yates. “I was aggressive on stage two (in Nice) and that led to four days in yellow. Everyone wants to wear yellow. When you watch the Tour as a kid, you watch the yellow jersey. It’s a big honour and it’s been great for the team.

“There are still plenty of opportunities ahead and time’s on my side.”

After Monday’s rest day, the next two stages should suit the sprinters, but a return to the Alps soon beckons and Yates plans to be on the attack.

He began the Tour uncertain of his condition after an illness last month hampered his build-up and put paid to any prolonged assault on the general classification. But the past few days have only increased his confidence.

“On stage two I wanted to go after it and be aggressive when my condition wasn’t fully known,” he said. “Now I know where we stand, so I don’t see any reason why we can’t be aggressive and go for a stage win.”

Yates had to fight hard to defend yellow on Saturday when the race first moved into the Pyrenees, three times seeing rivals move clear only to calmly pace his way back, but Sunday’s stage nine found his breaking point.

Ironically, it was in fact the sort of stage he had been looking for when eyeing his chance to win one.

“It would have been a perfect stage for me,” he said. “The break didn’t go for about 50 or 60 kilometres when guys were attacking on the climb. It’s much easier for me to get in a break going uphill and not on the flat, so it would have been perfect.

“But you can’t really go in the break when you’re in the lead, can you?”

Yates slipped down to eighth in the general classification, 62 seconds down, after Sunday’s stage, but knows he will need a much greater deficit before the peloton allows him the freedom to join breakaways.

“Probably around 10 minutes,” he said when asked how much time he might need to lose. “Yesterday it took 60km for the break to go, so it’s going to be a hard fight.

“You’re going to have to be a long way down before you’re given any freedom. If you’re only around three minutes down and you try and go up the road, you’re going to get shut down.

“There are a lot of teams organised and going well, and they know what they’re doing.

“We’ll just have to see because the next few days are flat and so far the forecast doesn’t look super windy, so I shouldn’t lose too much time, but if needs be I’ll just go off the back and lose time here and there before the big Alps stages.”