Yates keeps yellow jersey as contenders play it safe
Briton still leads as peloton refuse to pursue breakaway Kazakh Lutsenko holds off Spain’s Herrada for solo victory
He promised us “one hell of a battle” on yesterday’s summit finish in the Massif Central. But in the end Adam Yates did not even need to get his elbows out or grit his teeth as he comfortably held on to his yellow jersey for another day.
Much to everyone’s dismay, the expected gunfight between the general classification contenders never materialised. A hot day, 30C down on the valley floor as the peloton wended its way from Le Teil in the Ardeche over to the spectacular Mont Aigoual in the Massif Central, was partly responsible for the lack of fireworks. But more than that, it is the fact that the Tour’s route planners chose to pack the first week of this year’s edition with mountains and summit finishes. Anyone who goes out too hard now will pay for it in week three. So, instead, they are all biding their time.
Yesterday, an eight-man break did form, which Mitchelton-Scott were happy to see disappear up the road, and the GC contenders marked each other for the rest of the stage. Alexey Lutsenko of Astana eventually prevailed, the Kazakh powering clear on the Col de la Lusette with 17km remaining, and then holding off a surge from Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) to score a solo win.
The yellow jersey group finished nearly three minutes later, with only Julian Alaphilippe of the GC group seemingly motivated to win back a bit of pride as he put in a late burst on Mont Aigoual but only recovered one second on Yates.
Yates said he was not surprised. “In the final, the steeper climb [Col de la Lusette] was a little far out [to attack]. And then the finish wasn’t too hard, it was quite shallow. So if you attack there it’s difficult to gain seconds and you make a big effort. I think everyone is keeping their powder dry.”
The lack of action for a second consecutive day prompted a bit of whingeing among cycling fans, with some questioning why at least one GC contender was not prepared to risk something. And some of them might regret not giving it a go when they finish eighth or ninth in Paris.
Yates insisted again that he was not interested in finishing high up on GC. “Even though I’m sitting in the yellow jersey, I want to win a stage,” he said. “We came here to win stages. So far it hasn’t happened. Today wasn’t the day. It was about saving energy. Once we get to the high mountains I can try something.”
Some think Yates is bluffing. That if he stays in yellow through the Pyrenees this weekend he will have no choice but to start focusing on the overall standings, especially if he sees that other contenders are not as strong as everyone thought. Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo) had a tough day on Tuesday, while doubts have emerged over Egan Bernal’s back.
Stage seven today from Millau to Lavaur is almost guaranteed to end in a sprint. Not that Yates is getting overly excited. “As a kid growing up everyone wants to wear yellow at the Tour de France. It was a nice experience. Hopefully we can keep it for a few more days at least.”
Leader of the pack: Adam Yates was able to stay in the peloton to retain his yellow jersey
All alone: Alexey Lutsenko celebrates as he crosses the finish line on Mont Aigoual